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Yes Scotland: independence could drive forward positive social change in UK

Independence could drive forward positive social policies in the remainder of the United Kingdom, according to the Yes Scotland campaign group.

Elaine C Smith helped launch the Yes Scotland report in Glasgow
Elaine C Smith helped launch the Yes Scotland report in Glasgow

In a paper aimed at union members, the pro-independence group tried to address concerns that leaving the UK would loosen "solidarity" with places like Liverpool and Newcastle.

It highlighted policies such as the smoking ban and minimum alcohol pricing as evidence that England can follow Scotland's lead.

The comments are contained in a publication, Yes to a Just Scotland, which responds to an interim report on the constitutional future by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).

Yes Scotland argues that unions will be able to deliver more of their agenda by backing independence in the referendum next year.

A No vote will mean a continuation of Westminster party politics, which the report suggests is "breaking up Britain" socially and economically.

"Some in the trade union movement argue that Scotland should not move to independence because real progress will only come when we work together with people in Newcastle, Belfast or Liverpool, Manchester, London or Cardiff," the report states.

"However, in areas where policy is already devolved, action in Scotland has arguably accelerated progress elsewhere in the UK.

"Just as Scotland looked to Ireland when we adopted the smoking ban, England and Wales looked to Scotland when they followed suit.

"And policy thinking in Scotland in relation to alcohol minimum pricing is helping drive the debate down south (and elsewhere across Europe).

"If Scotland can be a beacon of progress in areas of health, where responsibility already lies with Scotland, surely we can also be a beacon of progress in welfare or employability or the living wage as an independent nation?"

It continues: "With independence, we can show real solidarity, in actions rather than just words, because a more successful north of England - our nearest neighbour - will be good news for Scotland."

Yes Scotland's report asks the STUC to explore policy options for independence, investigate the impact of welfare changes and consider the "advantages" of small economies.

In the report's introduction, Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, wrote: "We do not claim that the trade union movement will get all that it argues for in an independent Scotland.

"Social justice won't win by default, just because we become independent, but have no doubt those arguments for social justice - made by the STUC and others - will fall on more fertile ground.

"And, with independence, we will have a Parliament fully capable of delivering on social justice, if the people of Scotland so choose."

Elaine C Smith, the actress and independence campaigner, helped launch the Yes Scotland report in Glasgow.

She said: "If we don't embrace the inequalities in our country and face up to the harsh realities of so many people's lives, then we are not doing our job either in the Yes campaign or as a nation."

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: "The STUC believes that A Just Scotland has played an important role in shifting the independence debate onto the ground of social justice, evidenced by key speeches made recently by Nicola Sturgeon, Anas Sarwar and others.

"And, as reflected in the Yes to a Just Scotland report, the campaigns are helpfully moving away from the 'nirvana' or 'disaster' approach to Scotland's fiscal position - something which can only serve to improve the quality of the debate.

"Nonetheless, the STUC believes that significant challenges remain for both campaigns.

"Commitments in areas such as welfare continue to be made without the necessary related commitment to redistribution through increased taxation.

"Both campaigns lack any clear vision of how collective bargaining and a properly-regulated labour market might be used to reduce income inequality."

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