Yes Vote 'Will Aid Poverty Battle'

Independence would offer Scotland the opportunity to translate its aspirations into reality, the Finance Secretary has said.

John Swinney said that the country needs a different political structure to enable it to do more to tackle issues such as poverty and inequality.

He was speaking for the Yes campaign at a "respectful dialogue'' event organised by the Church of Scotland.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, Advocate General for Scotland, represented the No side at the discussion, which was chaired by the Rt Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland.

In his opening statement Mr Swinney highlighted the inequalities in society reflected in the existence of food banks.

He said: "In a country that on the one hand has nuclear weapons and on the other hand has food banks I think a change in our priorities is long overdue.''

He added: "We have to be able to translate our aspirations into reality. The current political structures of the United Kingdom do not enable me to put my values into practice.

"If we are serious about tackling the poverty and inequality that exists in our society we must have the political structures that enable us to do so and that for me is what September 18 is all about.

"I hope that in the next two weeks we will consider how we can bring to life the values that we hold and create a country that thrives on the wellbeing of our people.''

Lord Wallace spoke next in the event at the Tron Church in Glasgow last night.

He said that Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and that devolution has given it the powers to tackle its unique issues.

He said: "Devolution has given us the power to design Scottish solutions to the unique problems we face.''

Lord Wallace also said that the UK is one of the largest donors of aid in the world and that an independent Scotland would not be able to play such a large role.

He said: "I don't doubt that Scotland independent from the UK would continue to play a part in such endeavours but it would be a much much smaller part.''

The dialogue in Glasgow was streamed live online to 10 satellite events around Scotland in towns and cities including Lanark, Kirkwall, Inverness and Penicuik.

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland's church and society council, also spoke.

She said: "I wonder if we need to get away from the naked concept of independence. Independence is not a natural human condition, we are inter-dependent creatures.

"So I wonder if the question is not should we be an independent country but what political system is best to deliver the kind of Scotland we've imagined.''

She called on people to respect the outcome of the referendum and work together for the country's future.

She said: "On the 19th we have to respect the result and stand together. We cannot afford to feud, there's too much work to do.''

The audience was made up of Church of Scotland members, as well as leaders from civic life and other religious denominations and faith groups.

After speeches from the key speakers they were invited to contribute their thoughts to the discussion.

Mr Chalmers said the evening's dialogue was not an "antidote'' to the current debate but a model of how Scotland's future could be discussed.

He said: "It's important that we can hold such a discussion and disagree without denigrating each other.

"Even in our differences we remain part of the same community bound together by much more than separates us.''

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