Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon gives Glasgow lecture
Scottish independence is the vehicle to a "fairer Scotland" rather than an end in itself, the country's deputy first minister has said.
In a lecture at Glasgow University, Nicola Sturgeon said the Westminster government posed the "biggest threat" to the values of the welfare state.
She said only independence would give Scotland the power to implement its own policies in every area.
The Scottish government wants to hold an independence referendum in 2014.
But opposition parties have called on the SNP administration to hold it earlier than that date.
Speaking at the university's School of Law, Ms Sturgeon focused on the reasons why she believes Scotland should become an independent nation rather than on the mechanics of holding a referendum.
The deputy first minister said: "I have never believed that independence is an end in itself. I want Scotland to be independent because I believe that it is the best way to further Scottish interests.
"Independence will give Scotland the opportunity to make different decisions and to implement policies designed for its own needs in every area. In welfare as well as health, the economy as well as education.
"In the past the union would have been seen as not just the creator but also the guarantor of the values and vision of the post-war welfare state. Today, many see that it is the union, under the Westminster government, that poses the biggest threat to these values and that vision."
Ms Sturgeon said devolution had allowed the Scottish government to "protect the values of our national health service and ensure that it can meet the needs of people in Scotland."
"Unlike its counterpart in England, the NHS in Scotland will remain a public service, paid for by the public and accountable to the public. There will be no privatisation of the National Health Service in Scotland," Ms Sturgeon added.
But she said: "Independence would give us the power not only to protect Scotland from policies that offend our sense of decency and social cohesion. It would also allow us to build a fairer Scotland.
"What independence does is put our destiny firmly in our own hands. It gives us the ability to take the decisions that matter, to ensure that our talents and our resources work to the benefit of our people.
"We want Scotland to be independent not because we think that we are better than any other country, but because we know that we are just as good as any other country. Like every other nation, Scotland's future, our decisions and our success should be in our own hands."