By Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands

For modern Britain, today, March 24, is an important day.

The day, in 1603, when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England.

Some regard this as the beginning of modern British history, paving the way, over a hundred years later, for the Act of Union.

And in 2016, March 24 could have been just as significant.

It would have been the day Scotland officially broke away from the rest of the UK following a vote for independence in 2014.

Fortunately, this didn’t materialise. Scottish voters decided to keep our centuries old union.

And they did this for good reasons.

No one can deny that the United Kingdom has been a success.

And nor would anyone say it has all been plain sailing.

But the benefits for us all both north and south of the border are clear.

At a time when the world is facing its most uncertain period since the Great Recession, the UK government’s long-term economic plan is working right across the UK. The deficit has fallen by almost two-thirds and, here in Scotland, employment is close to a record high.

And only last week the Chancellor, George Osborne, set out how the broad shoulders of the UK are helping to support one of Britain - and Scotland’s - most important sectors.

His Budget set out £1 billion in additional support for the oil and gas sector, helping to protect an estimated 375,000 jobs.

This builds on the £1.3 billion of support already provided by the UK government to unlock the North Sea for the next generation and make sure it is fit for the future.

But let me be clear, none of this support would have been remotely affordable if Scotland was breaking away from the rest of the UK today, as the nationalists wanted.

The Scottish government’s own numbers show an independent Scotland would have faced a £20 billion black hole in its public finances over its first three years. It would have been starting with a fiscal crisis under the burden of the highest budget deficit in the western world.

Thankfully, the Scottish people decided that we are better together in one United Kingdom.

However, believing in our United Kingdom is not the same as believing that every decision should be taken here in London.

That is why we are overseeing the most radical transfer of powers to Scotland in centuries.

Since September 2014, the government has been working to deliver our promise to make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful and accountable devolved parliaments in the world.

Key to these new powers is the new Fiscal Framework for the Scottish Government, agreed last month.

The Fiscal Framework will underpin the Scottish Government’s new tax raising powers, so for the first time in over 300 years politicians in Edinburgh will be responsible for setting income tax rates and thresholds for workers in Scotland, from April next year.

What the rates will be is a matter for them. But Ruth Davidson MSP was right when she said families in Scotland should not pay a premium for living north of the Border. Her “not a penny more” pledge makes sound economic sense.

And I am confident that the powers, used effectively, can further increase the economic prosperity of Scotland, as part of the UK.

In the meantime, the changes we announced at Budget to the income tax personal allowance will benefit 2.6 million tax payers in Scotland.

All of this means the upcoming Scottish elections will be fought on the issues which matter most: how the next Scottish government uses these extensive new powers.

But whatever happens in May, Scotland will continue to benefit from the economic and national security that comes from being part of the UK.

So this week will not be a leap into uncertainty with separation, but instead this is the week when the Scotland Bill passes and a new world of opportunity opens up to Scotland, as part of a strong and enduring United Kingdom.