Danny Alexander speaks exclusively to the Press and Journal ahead of the 2015 general election.
We, the people of Scotland, voted in record numbers in September to remain in the UK, as an integral part of one of the world’s most successful economic, social and political unions.
As was clear then, and remains clear now, a No vote was not a vote for “no change”.
As the leaders of the three political parties, and indeed campaigners like me promised, a No vote was a vote for change. Change for our communities, our families, our politics.
And today marks a crucial step in that change.
Today, Prime Minister David Cameron, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and I – a proud Highlander as well as chief secretary to the Treasury – will stand in Edinburgh and deliver on the vow we made in September.
These new powers are guaranteed – whoever forms the next UK Government.
Scotland will have one of the most powerful devolved administrations in the world, with powers over most Scottish spending, significant levels of tax, and substantial elements of welfare.
We in Scotland will live in a stronger country – but still be backed by the resilience and security of the United Kingdom. This is home rule for Scotland.
I sense that even many Yes voters have come to see just how important it is that we can draw on the broader shoulders of our family of nations, given the huge fall in the price of oil.
The loss of tax revenue arising from the falling oil price would have been a devastating blow for a Scotland cut off from the wider UK.
This oil price collapse shows just how we dodged a bullet on September 18.
And today’s draft legislation shows that the UK Government is delivering on our side of the bargain.
The Scottish Government will have new tax powers, for example gaining control over income tax and air passenger duty, on top of existing powers over stamp duty and the ability to create new taxes.
And in addition, the Scottish Government will keep half of all VAT revenue generated in Scotland.
And there will be new powers relating to disability, housing systems, and welfare payments – creating a Scottish welfare system worth around £2.5billion a year.
For the first time, the majority of the Scottish Government’s budget will come from Scottish taxpayers rather than the block grant. This gives Holyrood great power, but also serious responsibility towards the Scottish people.
Coupled with existing powers, the Scottish Government will have the ability to choose how to get the best economic results, and deliver growth and jobs and fairness for the people of Scotland – whether through taxation or spending.
But today is not just about more devolution to Scotland, it is about more devolution within Scotland.
As recommended by Lord Smith, the Scottish government must now transfer powers to our cities and communities – especially the Highlands and islands – and not hoard them in Edinburgh.
There is more detailed work to be done.
The UK and Scottish governments need to decide how the new funding arrangements will work alongside the Barnett Formula.
We also need to develop a framework so that the Scottish Government can manage Scottish risks in devolved areas, and the UK Government can continue to manage UK-wide risks.
That’s what we voted for – a powerful Scotland within a strong UK.
We Scots will continue to be able to benefit from the many advantages of living in the UK, the fastest-growing economy in the G7.
As well as a vibrant and balanced economy, we will continue to enjoy a strong defence system, a robust currency, and the UK’s single jobs market.
This is genuinely the best of both worlds – a settlement which the people of Scotland asked for and which the UK government has today delivered.