Scotland stands to become independent as the most prepared that any nation has ever been for the transition to statehood. We already have many of the key requirements of an independent state, including our own legal system and a national parliament in Edinburgh that is, even under the current constitutional set-up, responsible for running health, education and many other policy areas including climate change, where Scotland has pioneered world-leading legislation.
And last November, the Scottish government published 'Scotland's future', a comprehensive, 670-page prospectus for an independent Scotland, which includes our proposals for Scotland to play a constructive role as a full member of the European Union.
In that document, we outline a clear path for Scotland to assume its place as the 29th member state of the EU, negotiating the specific terms of our continued membership from within. Following a 'yes' vote in this September's referendum, those discussions will take place while Scotland is still part of the UK, in the 18-month transition period we have outlined in the run-up to our proposed independence day on 24 March 2016. That timetable has been described as "realistic" by James Crawford, the UK government's own independent legal expert.
"Scotland would take responsibility for its share of UK contributions and receipts - that means that Scotland would be a net contributor to the EU"
We believe there is every reason why negotiations can be concluded quickly, as we will ask for continuity of effect - a 'no-detriment' settlement. Our continued membership will not cause any detriment to any other EU member. As such, there would be no reopening of the EU budget agreed last year to 2020. Scotland would take responsibility for its share of UK contributions and receipts - that means that Scotland would be a net contributor to the EU. All of this reflects our pro-European intent, and the EU's own best interests - our membership benefits us and all of the other countries of the EU.
The European institutions have already shown themselves to be very flexible at adapting to changed political circumstances. More than two decades ago, they managed to accommodate East Germany into the European club less than 12 months after the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989. That is a point well worth bearing in mind, because East Germany was welcomed in from outside in less than a year after having been governed for around 40 years as part of the Warsaw pact.
How different the situation is for Scotland. We have already been inside the European club for more than 40 years, and as such meet all the key criteria for membership. And Scotland already plays an important role in the EU, contributing significantly to joint endeavours. But we could and will contribute far more as an independent country.
"Scotland is a European nation that contributes hugely to the EU and its overall prosperity - and we in turn benefit from being part of the European family"
We have more than 60 per cent of the EU's oil reserves, a quarter of its offshore wind and tidal power potential, 10 per cent of its wave power potential. We have a key role to play in providing energy security for Europe, and in developing the low carbon technologies the world will need for the future. And there are around 160,000 EU workers and students who have come to live in Scotland. They make a huge contribution to Scotland's culture, society and economy.
Scotland is a European nation that contributes hugely to the EU and its overall prosperity - and we in turn benefit from being part of the European family. Independence will give us the opportunity to take decisions in our own national interests, which are too often overlooked or relegated by Westminster. For example, if we were already an independent EU member, Scotland's farmers would be benefiting from an extra billion euros in common agricultural policy funding between 2014 and 2020. That's a real example of the cost of Westminster rule for Scotland - and of the reality of what independence will mean.
Download a summary of the Scottish government’s White Paper on Independence, entitled Scotland’s Future’ here.