ALEX Salmond is to launch an ambitious blueprint for restoring Scotland's industrial glory, as he leads the Yes campaign into the final 100 days of the referendum with a sharp focus on jobs and the economy, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
The First Minister's plan to "reindustrialise" the country will set out how Scotland could harness its existing talent and resources to far greater effect under independence, creating more high-pay jobs and a more secure economy.
Where once Scotland was synonymous with heavy industry such as shipbuilding and steelmaking, the new plan will focus on modern manufacturing specialities such as advanced engineering and the growing offshore renewables sector.
A key element would be the launch of a massive export drive on the back of Scotland's raised international profile after a Yes vote, with the number of overseas trade promotion offices increased from around 20 to between 70 and 90.
The plan will argue Scotland could become a "global hub for the industries of the future" by drawing on its skilled workforce, its leading universities and research capabilities. The aim is to use the powers of independence to emulate successful, smaller European countries where governments promote investment, research and innovation in order to deliver economic security and build a fairer society.
Since 1970, the UK's manufacturing sector has increased by just 35% in real terms, compared to 274% in Finland, and 230% in Sweden and Austria.
"We can create more and better jobs through a sustainable strategy to reindustrialise our economy after decades of neglect by Westminster governments, which has led to us lagging behind other nations," a government source said.
"This will require a national plan involving education, a greater commitment to gender equality, skills development, improved access to finance, a new approach to innovation, a partnership approach to industrial relations and a huge export promotion campaign."
Salmond says today that independence would not only help Scotland's citizens, but would "help to rebalance the economy across these islands, to everyone's benefit, and present an opportunity for the rest of the UK to address the economic and social challenges it faces".
To be launched in the coming days, the plan is part of the Yes camp's wider focus on winning over undecided working-class voters with assurances on jobs and social justice.
The offer of a manufacturing renaissance is also calculated to appeal to the Labour heartlands of the central belt which suffered most from industrial decline in the 1970s and 1980s.
Polls suggest swithering working-class voters will be key to the result on September 18.
Support for a Yes is already highest in working-class areas previously seen as Labour's domain. However, Labour is fighting back hard, with a succession of party heavyweights hitting the road this week to recapture their old vote.
Yes Scotland last night claimed its private research showed seven out of 10 people who had moved from undecided to knowing how they would vote had chosen to back independence.
Both the Yes and No camps will mark tomorrow's 100-days-to-go milestone with set-piece events, speeches and flurries of street campaigning.
In an attempt to woo female voters, the SNP Government will hold an all-female Scottish Cabinet in Edinburgh, while Yes Scotland will launch an independence "pledge card".
The pro-UK Better Together campaign will field a range of senior politicians to persuade voters to stick with the UK, starting with its chairman, Alistair Darling, in Glasgow.
On Tuesday, former Labour Scottish secretary Jim Murphy will launch a "100 towns in 100 days" tour of Scotland aimed at undecided voters, starting with a trip from Barrhead to Barra.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown will appear at St Andrews University on Thursday alongside the LibDem peer Shirley Williams.
And on Friday, former LibDem leader Charles Kennedy will speak at Glasgow University.
Darling said that after more than two years the campaign had arrived at "the business end".
He said: "The choice being offered to people in Scotland is clear. We can take a leap into the dark with separation, putting our pound, pensions and public services at risk.
"Or we can have the best of both worlds for Scotland as part of the UK."
It emerged on Friday that Better Together had hired the Conservatives' favourite ad agency, M&C Saatchi, to help bolster its campaign amid internal bickering over its performance.
The Saatchi team famously produced the "Labour isn't working" poster which helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 General Election.
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair
Jenkins yesterday unveiled plans for a "Yes Convention" in Stirling next Saturday, which aims to bring together campaigners from all parts of the Yes movement.
A poll out yesterday found 46% of Scots in favour of a Yes vote (once undecided voters were stripped out), while only 15% of people south of the Border wanted the UK to end.
However, the Populus survey for the Financial Times used a small sample of 548 Scots and did not ask the question on the ballot paper, instead asking if people "hoped Scotland votes to remain part of the UK".
If Scotland did become independent, 68% of English and 59% of Welsh voters would oppose a shared currency union with sterling.
Labour MP Ian Murray said it was "encouraging" people through the UK wanted Scotland to stay.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said the poll failed to mention the mutual benefits of the rest of the UK sharing the pound with Scotland.