By Martin Kelly
One of the leading advisors to the Better Together campaign has admitted that advice published by the UK Government which it claims supports a decision to block a currency union with an independent Scotland, might be wrong.
Professor Jim Gallagher, who is opposed to independence and has been recruited by the No campaign as a special advisor, made the admission when appearing in front of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee.
Asked about the advice given to UK Chancellor George Osborne by the Treasury’s top civil servant Sir Nicholas MacPherson, and whether it was impartial, the academic said:
“I think the advice met the standards of the civil service code, it was based on evidence and it was objective,”
However Professor Gallagher then appeared to question the validity of Sir Nicholas’s advice, adding: “it might be right, it might be wrong,”
The SNP has today said the comment from the Better Together member is evidence of splits in the No campaign which it says further discredits the anti-independence currency bluff. It follows recent revelations that an unnamed coalition minister had admitted a currency union will be agreed and that opposition voiced by Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour counterpart Ed Balls was merely a campaign tactic.
According to a recent Survation poll the currency threats issued by Mr Osborne has resulted in 79% per cent of people being more likely to either back a Yes vote or make no difference at all to how they plan to vote in the referendum.
Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson, who is also convener of Holyrood’s finance committee, said:
“The fact that a senior adviser to the No campaign is suggesting that the Treasury advice could well be wrong underlines the extent to which the bluff and bluster on the pound is devoid of any credibility.
“This follows the revelation that the Treasury has no documentation explaining how or when the currency bluff was arrived at. Professor Gallagher has previously undermined the No campaign’s more lurid claims, and is crystal clear that the UK Government Minister was right when he said ‘of course’ there will be a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
Professor Gallagher has also previously backed the idea of a currency union saying it would make “a lot of sense” and that there was “no doubt that these islands, particularly the island of Britain, are an optimum currency union”.
The academic was unveiled as a Better Together adviser at the beginning of the year but has made a series of gaffes. On the EU, it emerged he had previously written that in the event of an independence it was “pretty likely” that Scotland would become an EU state after an “accelerated set of accession negotiations”.
Mr Gibson added: “As recent polling by Survation has shown there is strong evidence that the people of Scotland have seen right through the currency bluff.
“The currency confession from a UK minister that ‘of course’ there would be a shared sterling area between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK reflects the reality – and that is what most people now know.
“There is no question that the currency bluff has backfired, and is one of the factors dismantling the relentlessly negative No camp’s arguments and building into the case for a Yes vote.”
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, a Better Together spokesperson said: “A currency union would not happen. It has been ruled out by the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, shadow Chancellor and the Permanent Secretary at the Treasury. Just this week a new poll showed that people in the rest of the UK are overwhelmingly against it.”