By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
Leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling “doesn’t even agree with himself” according to one MP after the former chancellor appeared to contradict himself on the issue of currency in an independent Scotland.
During a speech in front of an audience of young voters in Edinburgh, Mr Darling said that the SNP’s plans for a sterling currency union with Westminster were “increasingly dead in the water” despite a year ago telling Newsnight Scotland that it would be a “desirable” and “logical” step.
The Labour MP and frontman for the No campaign has now come under criticism for delivering a “poor and panicky” speech in the same week that the No campaign was said to be in chaos after a disastrous re-launch led to leading figures contradicting each other on Scotland’s future within the union.
Mr Darling compared the currency union idea to a creation by illustrator Heath Robinson, who is known for his drawings of complicated machines and said it was “difficult to see why” independence supporters would back the idea.
The former chancellor was immediately criticised for the comments following his own apparent support for the idea in January last year when he suggested a currency union would be in the best interests of both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster leader, said: “It was Mr Darling who said that a sterling area between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK is ‘desirable’ and ‘logical’ – he doesn’t even agree with himself, and by a factor of some six-to-one people in the rest of the UK also back the Scottish Government policy to keep the pound.
“Mr Darling’s own No campaign expert adviser, Professor Gallagher, agrees that Scotland will not be part of the euro – something else he shows no indication of being aware of.”
In December, the results of an opinion poll showed that 71 per cent of Scots agreed that Scotland should continue to use pound sterling as the country’s currency. The proposal has also previously received the backing of the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.
Mr Robertson added: “Given that the Westminster Treasury has just published detailed proposals agreeing with the Scottish Government policy to share the UK’s debt – much of it run up by Alistair Darling – we presume that they wish Scotland to pay a share in pounds sterling!”
“The Scottish Government has published a detailed, 670-page guide to an independent Scotland – covering such matters as currency and student funding – and it is high time that Alistair Darling answered the 50 questions posed by Nicola Sturgeon about the dangers and downsides of voting No.”
Mr Darling went on in his speech to attack the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, calling it a “catalogue of promises” and “largely a work of fiction”, and criticised the SNP’s position on the EU and tuition fees.
The Labour MP claimed that First Minister Alex Salmond had “damaged his credibility” over the Scottish Government’s legal advice on EU membership, despite recent reports of high-ranking European officials backing plans for a simple transition post-independence.
Earlier this month, the former chief of staff for the French Minister of European Affairs, Yves Gounin, said the “most reasonable course of action” would be to negotiate EU membership for Scotland at the same time as negotiations over Scotland’s separation from the UK took place.
Mr Robertson said that Mr Darling’s speech amounted to fear mongering from the Better Together campaign.
“There are no new ideas or messages from the No Campaign – only further evidence that Project Fear is alive and well in 2014,” he said.
“Mr Darling is also out of touch with what is happening on the ground – as we have seen in Ayrshire College and Prestwick Academy in recent days, Yes moves into the lead when people hear the positive arguments for an independent Scotland, and they are seeing right through the smears and fears of the No campaign.”