See his full speech below:
I’m delighted to be here to support you, as well as working for Yes and a better country generally, Polish for Yes is close to my heart because I spent 1995-96 studying in your wonderful country, in Warsaw. It was a time of great change, energy and excitement, and it has made my heart sing to see so many Poles, other Central and Eastern Europeans take advantage of the same EU rights I did and pay Scotland the supreme compliment of making us your home.
And if you take nothing else away from tonight, it is that from the very bottom of my heart:
If you live in Scotland, You're Scottish.
You’re part of our community.
You’re part of our economy.
You’re our friends, our neighbours, our family.
How Scottish you feel is your business, not mine. You’re part of Scotland’s present and you’re part of Scotland’s future.
This is your referendum too.
I’ve been privileged to represent all of Scotland in the European Parliament since 2004, and goodness me we have come a long way. I’ve been able to watch, and I hope help, the attitudes of the people of Scotland change both to the SNP and to the constitution. The same way as I did myself a number of years ago.
I wasn’t born into the SNP, or born a nationalist. I learned and I chose, I decided, that independence will give us the best shot of changing Scotland.
Independence for me has never been about building a strong nurturing culture shared through flags, old songs and stories, we have all that now.
Its not about identity either, we’re already proudly Scottish but that doesn’t have anything to do with my politics.
Independence for me is about what we don’t have. Its about power.
The power to put Scotland’s amazing resources to the benefit of the people who live here.
The power to protect what’s good in Scotland, and the power to change what we need to.
The power to make our own decisions at home and to speak with our own voice in the world.
But in that time I’ve also seen the debate move, from “could” we be independent to “should” we be independent.
That is actually a big, fundamental shift.
I remember well, it was not long ago that we were told, often, that Scotland is too wee, too poor, subsidised by England, we couldn’t ‘go it alone’ (as if we’re even going anywhere!). This debate has utterly destroyed those lies, nobody serious makes those arguments any more. Scotland more than pays its way and has more than what it takes to be a success. The question is should we?
And Yes, I think we should.
Since 1999 when our national Parliament in Scotland was re-established, we’ve had a degree of independence, a taste of independence, a limited independence, and we have used it well.
We have, in Scotland, made different decisions to those we have seen elsewhere in these islands. Decisions I believe have been better for Scotland.
The reason prescription charges have been abolished and the NHS is genuinely free at the point of use and people don’t need to choose between medicine and food, is because Scotland’s politicians decided to do that.
The reason we do not have the ruinous tuition fees for students is because Scotland’s politicians decided to do that. If I had been looking, at 17, at £9000 a year of debt I know, I simply would not have gone to study. I’m proud that education in Scotland is about ability, not ability to pay and I think England will rue the day they decided to go down that road.
On lots of other issues too, Council tax, police reorganisation, land reform, equal marriage and more, Scotland has taken a different path to the path we would have been taken down by Westminster.
We’ve made better decisions for Scotland by having the powers here.
So why not all the rest? Why not pensions? Why not childcare? Why not all of the economy?
I trust our politicians, our different democracy, in Scotland to come up with better answers for Scotland than we will see from remaining a small minority at Westminster.
And as a minority at Westminster, Scotland’s representatives have proven (and remember there’s not many of them nationalist!) that we’re different.
On the sell off of the Royal Mail, a clear majority, over 80% of Scotland’s MPs voted against, but it happened, because we’re a minority at Westminster.
On the benefits cap and the bedroom tax, upwards of 90% of our MPs voted against, but it happened, because we’re a minority at Westminster.
On renewing trident and wasting countless millions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction, a clear majority of our MPs voted against, but it happened because we’re a minority at Westminster.
I believe it is beyond doubt that Scotland would make different decisions, given the powers.
Because the final question, the need for change, is to my mind clear as well.
The opposition says we’ll be better together, well why aren’t we better together already?
We’ve had 300 years to be better together yet countless thousands of our neighbours are struggling in their lives. In a rich country.
Where I’m from in Glasgow has one of the worst life expectancies in Europe. In a rich country.
Where food banks and payday loans are becoming not the exception but the rule for too many of our neighbours.
Where too many children are growing up in poverty and consigned, too young, to the scrapheap.
If you think the status quo is working, you’re not paying attention. I was writing an article last week about food banks, there’s eight food banks in Edinburgh, the capital city of one of the worlds richest nations. We called Oslo and Copenhagen to see how many food banks they have, and had to spend a few minutes explaining what a food bank is.
But its even more urgent than that. The status quo will change too, a No vote doesn’t guarantee things will stay the same it guarantees Westminster will still decide things for us.
And I fear where Westminster might take us. The way the Westminster parties are lurching to the right concerns me. The growth of UKIP and their malign impact on Westminster will only grow.
Look at the way the Westminster parties talk about the EU. About Immigration. About Human Rights. Look at the way the UK acts in the world, nuclear weapons, the arms trade. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister last week about the assault on Gaza. Obviously, I condemn all violence and I support no one side. But the UK has £8billion worth of current arms exports to Israel. We’re part of a state that isn’t neutral, isn’t one of the good guys, its part of the problem.
So an independent Scotland, of 5 and a half million people will be a different voice in the world. Again, that is evidence based. Look at the countries that do multilateralism well, promote international law and support human rights. A Scotland that creates the best example we could by getting nuclear weapons off our soil! The whole point of independence isn’t to continue the status quo it is to do it differently.
I trust Scotland to be a different sort of voice in the world than the state we’re currently part of.
I trust Scotland’s democracy, I trust Scotland’s people.
We’re a great country, for all our faults. We could be better.
I believe there’s nothing wrong with Scotland that won’t be put right by what is right with Scotland.
This is an energising time to be part of that debate. We’re blessed to live through a time that is changing how Scotland does business, that historians will write books about.
You’re part of it, its your future too, thanks for being here.