Alex Salmond has made a "declaration of opportunity" ahead of next month's independence referendum as he insisted that leaving the UK could help create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.
The First Minister said a Yes vote on September 18 was an opportunity to protect the NHS, end Westminster-imposed austerity and grow Scotland's population.
Prime Minister David Cameron branded the SNP leader a "desperate man" making a "pretty desperate argument".
With exactly one month until voters decide if Scotland should stay in the UK, Mr Salmond and his team of cabinet ministers met for the last time before the referendum in Arbroath - the town where a historic declaration of Scottish self-determination was made in 1320.
The First Minister invoked that declaration of Arbroath as he addressed the public there, stating that "a mbition and aspiration" were at the heart of his "declaration of opportunity".
He said: " This debate isn't about thinking that things will be delivered to Scotland on a plate, it's not about thinking it will all be easy, it's not about thinking that we will wake up one day with three taps - whisky, oil and water.
"Instead, it's about recognising that if we take the powers we need, use them well, and work hard, then over time we can create a more prosperous country and a fairer society - one which offers our young people the opportunities and quality of life they aspire to."
Mr Salmond went on: " It's easy to create uncertainty in this debate. Nobody can predict the future. But independence creates one undeniable, unquestionable certainty. Our democratic deficit will end. The people of Scotland will finally get the governments we vote for.
"The Arbroath Declaration didn't simply help to ensure Scotland's survival as an independent nation. It said that the wider community of Scotland could choose a government to protect their interests. It started an embryonic concept of popular sovereignty which has had a lasting influence - in Scotland and in many other nations.
"The chance we have in one month's time is the opportunity of a lifetime. On September 18, every single one of us will have the future of our country in our own hands."
He said in the vote next month "t rue popular sovereignty will come to Scotland" and declared: "This will be our moment - our time."
The First Minister added: "The question that people will have to consider is whether we want to hand our sovereignty back. Or should we take the powers we need, to create a more prosperous country, a fairer nation, a better society?
"That is the choice, the opportunity, that this country faces on September 18. And once we seize it, from that moment on, Scotland's future will be in Scotland's hands."
Mr Cameron claimed the First Minister was a "desperate man recognising the argument is going away from him making a pretty desperate argument".
Mr Salmond declared independence was the "only certain way of protecting our precious, publicly-funded NHS", arguing: " In Scotland, because we control health policy, we have been able to resist the Westminster privatisation drive. But we don't control Scotland's budget.
"So when the Tory-led Westminster government privatises services and cuts state provision, those cuts are passed directly on to Scotland."
But Mr Cameron insisted that a key argument from the Yes campaign did not "stack up".
Answering questions after a speech in central London, the Prime Minister said: "Health is a devolved issue. The only person who could, if they wanted to, introduce more private provision into the NHS in Scotland is Alex Salmond.
"Because of the protection on NHS spending that the UK Government has given that we would not cut NHS spending while we have had to make difficult decisions elsewhere, that has actually made sure under the Barnett formula that money is available for Scotland as well."
UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander attacked the independence campaign on the key issue of currency.
Mr Salmond has been under pressure in recent days to set out a "plan B" if no deal can be reached on a currency union to allow an independent Scotland to use the pound.
The Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all rejected such an agreement, with Mr Alexander insisting this was "out of the question".
Speaking at Dundee University, he said: " As part of the Union we get certainty about Scotland's currency. Because staying in the UK is the only way we can keep the pound. One of the world's oldest and most stable currencies.
"O n the currency issue, everyone is saying that Alex Salmond doesn't seem to have a plan B. I think he doesn't even have a plan A.
" A currency union is out of the question. As we've seen in the euro area, it simply would not work without a full political, economic and fiscal union, which is, of course, precisely what we have now and what the nationalists want to dissolve.
"No matter what Salmond says, there is absolutely nothing he can do to impose a currency union on the rest of the UK. I t's like he's forgotten that the word 'union' means it has to be agreed by both sides."
He spoke after the Scottish First Minister indicated keep ing the pound without the backing of the Bank of England could be a viable ''transitional option'' for an independent Scotland.
The Scottish Government's Fiscal Commission expert group, which also backs a currency union, has considered a range of alternatives, including a new independent currency, joining the euro and informal use of the pound using a process called ''sterlingisation''.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Salmond said: ''The Fiscal Commission said there were a number of viable alternatives, including as a transitional point exactly that (sterlingisation).
''But the best option for Scotland is keeping the pound in a currency union.
''As a transitional option, the Fiscal Commission said it was viable, but there are a number of other viable options.
''But the key point we're making is arguing for the sterling union, which we think is the best option for Scotland.''