SCOTLAND is a “better nation” as a result of the independence referendum, Alex Salmond claimed as he told how the debate over the country’s future had seen people become more informed and energised.
The First Minister, who has already announced his intention to resign after Scotland last week voted to remain in the United Kingdom, said the lengthy campaign had left the country with one of the most politically engaged populations anywhere in the world.
But he warned Westminster leaders that the people of Scotland would not tolerate any delay in them delivering on their pledge of more powers for Holyrood.
Just days before the historic vote, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all made a public vow that key powers, including those over tax and welfare, would be transferred to Edinburgh.
They also promised that the Barnett formula, which determines how public funding is divided across the UK, would be kept.
Mr Salmond said Scotland now has “a responsibility to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire to ensure the pledges are met”.
He said: “That’s not just a job for the Scottish Government, it is one for all parties in the Parliament. Indeed we might well argue there is a special obligation on the unionist parties, they promised further devolution, it is essential they deliver.”
But he stressed the “true guardians of progress” are the “energised electorate of this nation”.
He went on to state that the people of the country would not “tolerate any equivocation or delay” in fulfilling the promises.
The SNP leader was addressing Holyrood as MSPs returned for the first time since last Thursday’s vote.
“Scotland now has the most politically engaged population in Western Europe and one of the most engaged of any country anywhere in the democratic world,” he said.
“This land has been a hub of peaceful, passionate discussion, in the workplace, at home, in cafes, pubs and on the streets of Scotland. Across Scotland people have been energised, enthused by politics as has never happened before, certainly not in my experience.”
He said there is now a “totally new body politic” in Scotland, which is “speaking loud and clear”.
Mr Salmond said: “All of us must realise that things will never be the same again.
“Wherever we are travelling together we are a better nation today than we were at the start of this process, we are more informed, more enabled and more empowered.
“As a result of that our great national debate in my estimation will help us make a fairer, more prosperous and more democratic country. In all of that, all of Scotland will emerge as the winner.”