By a Newsnet reporter
The anti-independence campaign has been accused of misrepresenting the views of the new Governor of the Bank of England after claiming he had criticised the post-independence currency plans of First Minister Alex Salmond.
The accusation followed the circulation of a leaflet by Better Together which said Canadian Mark Carney had criticised Alex Salmond’s plans to keep the pound in the event of a Yes vote.
On the leaflet, which was handed out to members of the public on Friday, it said “With experts, including the Governor of the Bank of England, criticising Alex Salmond’s claim that we would keep the pound after independence, it is increasingly clear that if we leave the UK we would lose the UK pound.”
However asked to respond to the claims, an official from the Bank of England highlighted key segments of a speech given by Mr Carney earlier this week, in which he made clear he would not pass judgement on the currency options available to a newly independent Scotland.
“These remarks are on the public record and speak for themselves.” The official said pointedly.
On Wednesday, Mr Carney told an assembled audience of businessmen and journalists:
“What follows is not an assessment of whether Scotland will be overall better or worse off under independence – that is a multi-faceted judgement for the Scottish people. It does not pass judgement on the relative merits of the different currency options for an independent Scotland, but instead draws attention to the key issues.”
The new Bank of England Governor added: “This is a technocratic assessment of what makes an effective currency union between independent nations.”
Later, at a press conference the Governor responded to a question from BBC presenter James Naughtie on the Scottish Government’s plans for a currency agreement by saying:
“Well, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment directly on anything that the Scottish government has said or anyone from Westminster has said related to these issues. And you can appreciate, what I was looking to do – and hopefully accomplished – was to set out what the core issues were, not just at a high level, but also buttress them with some empirical and certainly theoretical grounding, so others can then delve into them and focus on them.”
This weekend the Better Together campaign plan to circulate thousands of leaflets containing claims which directly contradict the views expressed by Mr Carney. The leaflet was being handed out at key locations around Scotland on Friday, with the phrase ‘Goodbye Pound’ clearly visible.
The stunt was slammed by SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who said:
“That the No campaign is reduced to misrepresenting Mark Carney shows that they have lost the argument on the currency union and desperation has set in. The Governor’s speech made clear that the Bank of England would implement whatever monetary arrangements are agreed between the Scottish and UK Governments.”
The decision to hijack Mr Carney’s speech followed comments from a senior Labour party figure who recently described attempts to try to politicise the governors of the Bank of England as “not healthy”.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “I think it’s not healthy for us to involve governors of the Bank of England in big political debates and I don’t want to drag him into that.”
Ms Ewing added: “The No campaign’s latest gaffe is embarrassing on a number of levels. It is absolutely unacceptable to misrepresent Mark Carney’s views in order to make anti-independence points and this comes just weeks after a senior Labour figure argued against involving the Governor in political debates.
“Alistair Darling must take responsibility for this. He should make sure that this leaflet is withdrawn and that a public apology is offered to Mr Carney.”
Newsnet Scotland understands that some within the pro-independence movement are becoming increasingly bewildered at the lack of media scrutiny afforded some of the more questionable claims and statements being made by Better Together and other key anti-independence figures.
Last year the Better Together campaign continued to circulate leaflets boasting about the UK’s triple-A credit rating, despite agencies having downgraded the rating due to worries over the UK’s growing debt problem.
Other episodes have witnessed head of Better Together Alistair Darling deny ever having said that a currency agreement between the rest of the UK and a newly independent Scotland was in the interests of both sides, despite having been filmed saying so on the BBC.
Days ago, Newsnet Scotland revealed that claims about the Norwegian Oil Fund made by Better Together campaign co-ordinator Blair McDougall had been rubbished by the Norwegian Finance Department.
Newsnet Scotland contacted the head of communications for Better Together to ask whether the campaign group challenged the statement issued by the Bank of England which highlighted Mr Carney’s comments given in Wednesday’s speech. At the time of publication, we had received no reply.
[Newsnet comment – Mark Carney’s visit to Scotland on Wednesday received widespread media coverage. His speech and press conference that followed were particularly noteworthy for the way Mr Carney refused to be drawn into the independence debate, despite being asked some very loaded questions by professional journalists.
As in any political debate, both sides sought to highlight elements of Mr Carney’s speech in order to bolster their own stance – this is a perfectly acceptable practice.
However what Better Together has done is to attribute views to the Bank of England Chief that Mr Carney absolutely did not express. Indeed as the statements re-issued by the Bank of England and the video clip show, he was at pains to make this clear.
At no point has Mark Carney explicitly or implicitly sought to criticise either the currency stance of Alex Salmond or his counterpart in UK politics David Cameron.
We are into the last eight months of the independence debate and those who police this debate must do so without fear or favour. If any side is found to be deliberately misleading the public by issuing false statements or misrepresenting the views of impartial officials then they must be brought to book.