Scottish business leaders on all sides of the independence debate have offered support for a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Giving evidence to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, both Yes and NO supporters from the business community voiced their approval for the proposals put forward by the Scottish Government, should Scots vote Yes in the independence referendum.
However there was also agreement on the aftermath of a No vote with calls for the anti-independence campaign to provide more answers on the future of Scotland should Scots opt to remain in the Union.
Giving evidence to the committee, Robert Kilgour – a leading supporter of the No campaign – said that in the event of independence he would favour a currency union, stating: “Certainly from my point of view, in my view, from my business interests, the best would be Sterling without any doubt – whether that was in a formal currency union or in option 2 as Rupert said.”
Mr Kilgour also said that when he donated to the No campaign he asked for a joint platform on Scotland’s future from all parties and a response to the white paper to be drawn up – but to date he has had no response.
On the need for clarity on the consequences of a No vote, he added: “My firm view, and I told them this when I gave them a small cheque, was that the three main parties need to come up with a written response, in my view, to the SNP White Paper. It’s something that I firmly believe they should. They need to put down in writing more positive reasons for the Scottish public to vote No.”
Another to voice support for a post-Yes currency union was pro-Union Chief of Aggreko Rupert Soames. Asked about the best currency option for an independent Scotland from a business perspective, Mr Soames said:
“I think that some form of alignment with Sterling would be preferable but not necessary.”
A series of witnesses questioned the ability of the No campaign to offer a positive future for Scotland or a position on more powers ahead of the referendum.
Another Chief Executive of Clyde Blowers Jim McColl challenged claims that the referendum was harming investment, by pointing out his own business had in fact seen foreign investment flourish.
Commenting on the possibility of a currency union, Mr McColl said said:
“The currency union and being tied to the Bank of England would still give you plenty of fiscal freedom. I don’t see why it would stop you flexing tax policies.
“That’s going beyond what the Bank of England would do. They would set interest rates. They would maybe look at borrowing levels that you couldn’t go above, but it still gives you plenty of freedom to have the flexibility to design fiscal policies that would stimulate business growth and attract businesses into Scotland. So, for me, it’s a non-issue.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Marco Biagi who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said:
“Business leaders from across the political spectrum have made it abundantly clear today that the Scottish Government’s plan for a shared sterling area is the right one – for Scotland and for the rest of the UK.
“It is the option that will do most to support business on both sides of the border – a fact that no amount of bluster from George Osborne can erase. But while today’s evidence saw a welcome dose of common sense on currency, it also raised awkward questions for the No campaign.
“It is incredibly telling that even the No campaign’s own donors are unable to get any kind of response from them on what a No vote would mean for Scotland.
“It has become abundantly clear that all the anti-independence campaign can offer to people in Scotland is the dismal prospect of Westminster continuing to call the shots on the major issues affecting Scotland.
“With a Yes vote this year we will gain the tools we need to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country and can ensure that decisions on tax and spending always match Scotland’s needs and priorities.”