PERTH, Scotland, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- First Minister Alex Salmond promised Saturday that his party would back a minimum wage pegged to the cost of living in an independent Scotland.
Salmond told members of the Scottish National Party that the lowest-paid workers would have annual incomes 675 pounds ($1,100) higher if the minimum wage guarantee had been in place for the past five years.
About 70,000 people are now paid the minimum wage.
A referendum on ending Scotland's 300-year-old merger into the United Kingdom is scheduled for next year. Only a minority of Scots appear to favor complete independence, according to polls, although many support greater autonomy, and there is little evidence that campaigning by the SNP has shifted public opinion.
"If elected, on independence - this Scottish Government will establish a Fair Work Commission," Salmond said. "The central pillar of our Fair Work Commission will be to set a minimum wage guarantee."
The first minister, addressing the conference Friday, called a vote for independence "an act of national self belief," the BBC reported.
"We will not wake up on the morning of 19 September next year and think to ourselves what might have been," he said. "We will wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation -- ready to build a new nation both prosperous and just."
Devolution in the 1990s gave Scotland its own parliament with control over most internal affairs. The British government remains responsible for defense, foreign affairs and finances, including taxation.