By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has seized on comments from UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond after the coalition minister told a newspaper that nothing will be off the table in negotiations in the event of a Yes vote in September’s referendum.
Mr Hammond, who is scheduled to visit Scotland on Tuesday, became the latest senior No campaign figure to call into question claims by Chancellor George Osborne that Westminster would block an agreement on the pound and there would be no negotiations.
According to the Herald newspaper, commenting on discussions after a Yes vote, Mr Hammond said: “There will be nothing non-negotiable – everything will be on the table”
The statement directly contradicts the threats from George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander that there would be no negotiation on a currency union. It also follows a report in the Guardian newspaper last month which revealed an unnamed coalition minister had said objections to an agreement were a campaign tactic and that there would indeed be a currency union.
Commenting on the latest reports, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Philip Hammond has just effectively confirmed the story in the Guardian from an unnamed UK Government Minister that ‘of course’ there will be a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“By saying that as far as the UK Government is concerned ‘there will be nothing non-negotiable’ and that ‘everything will be on the table’ after a Yes vote, Mr Hammond has now conceded that by definition there will be negotiations on currency – flatly contradicting the bluff and bluster from his Cabinet colleague George Osborne.
“As time goes on, the No campaign’s Project Fear is having to come to terms with ‘Project Reality’ – and the reality is that sharing the pound in a currency union is in the interests of the rest of the UK every bit as much as an independent Scotland.
“Only yesterday, we read that the No campaign’s senior expert adviser, Professor Jim Gallagher, said that the advice ruling out a currency union ‘might be wrong’.
“And now we have it on the record from a senior UK Cabinet Minister that Westminster will negotiate on currency after a Yes vote.”
This weekend it also emerged that a senior advisor to the Better Together campaign had himself conceded that the advice that underpinned the currency stance of George Osborne may have been incorrect.
Appearing in front of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Professor Jim Gallagher was asked about the advice given to the UK Chancellor by the Treasury’s top civil servant Sir Nicholas MacPherson.
Responding, the academic said: “I think the advice met the standards of the civil service code, it was based on evidence and it was objective, it might be right, it might be wrong,”
Ms Sturgeon added: “If Scotland votes Yes, there will be a currency union because it suits the rest of the UK as well as Scotland. And Trident nuclear weapons will go from Scotland, because that is a matter of principle not a bargaining chip for negotiation.
“There is no question that the No campaign’s currency bluff has backfired – it has crumbled to dust under the light of scrutiny, and is one of the factors helping to build the case for a Yes vote.”
Mr Hammond is scheduled to visit a factory in Glasgow tomorrow where he is expected to become the latest coalition minister to attack independence.