Alex Salmond holds an audience with Arbroath

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

Members of the public gathered in St Andrew’s Church, Arbroath tonight (Monday) to quiz the First Minister and the Scottish Cabinet on their plans for independence.

In the shadows of the historically significant Arbroath Abbey, the church was packed with a wide mix of locals and interested parties to voice queries and concerns about the future of Scotland.

Joining Mr Salmond on the podium was cabinet ministers Angela Constance, Fiona Hyslop, John Swinney, Keith Brown, Richard Lochhead, Joe Fitzpatrick, Alex Neil, Shona Robison, Aileen Campbell and Kenny MacAskill.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, announced the cabinet’s joy at being in Arbroath and introduced the SNP’s eighth and final public meeting discussing the country’s future.

He said: “We are delighted to be here in Arbroath. The referendum is the choice between two futures. The First Minister and the cabinet are here to ensure the people of Scotland have all the information you need to make it your decision on the 18th September.”

Alex Salmond took to the stage to enthusiastic applause before outlining his main campaign choices with top priorities being the importance of protecting the NHS, putting an end to public funding cuts and creating job opportunities particularly youth employment,

The First Minister and the cabinet answered open questions on local and national matters ranging from health to defence to crime.

Currency concerns, Salmond’s previous Achilles heel, were raised where the First Minister was steadfast in his assurances that a currency union would continue: “We will share the Sterling. It is part of our assets from the United Kingdom and because it makes sense.”

The members of the podium did not avoid opporunities to discredit the Better Together outfit, resurrecting the debacle over the Treasury’s dealing with Patrick Delaney’s ‘dodgy dossier’ in response to the question ‘how much will to cost to set up an independent Scotland. Salmond denied claims costs would run into billions stating 60 percent of administration requirements were already up and running in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Keith MacAskill MSP, responded to a question on what a new Scottish Government would do to tackle legal highs. He said: “Part of the problem is the name, it gives the impression if it’s legal, it’s safe. It is a global issue.” MacAskill went on to praise the efforts of police in tackling the issues at a local level. “We need to raise awareness and move away from current terminology,” he finished.

Salmond rounded up the two-hour discussion with a summation that an independent Scotland would never enter an illegal war, such as the Iraq conflict.

Pick up the Arbroath Herald on Friday to find out some of the questions and answers raised by the audience.