By Martin Kelly
The row over what currency would be adopted by an independent Scotland erupted yesterday with both sides accusing the other of having fragmented coalitions.
Responding to a press release issued by the anti-independence campaign Better Together, who claimed that the SNP wanted to “rejoin” the United Kingdom “through a currency union”, the SNP highlighted what it claimed was a Unionist U-turn over claims an independent Scotland would have to join the euro.
The war of words follows claim and counter claim over the SNP policy of keeping the pound following independence. Finance Secretary John Swinney has insisted that an agreement on the role of the Bank of England would be beneficial to both Scotland the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr Swinney’s policy has the backing of respected international economists and head of Better Together Alstair Darling who has conceded such an arrangement would be “desirable”.
However, Better Together has seized on comments made by some members of Yes Scotland who have argued that a separate Scottish currency should also be considered. Respected economist, Jim Cuthbert recently claimed that the UK economy was heading for catastrophe and an independent Scotland should look to creating its own currency in the long term.
Also arguing for a separate Scottish currency was Colin Fox of the Scottish Socialist Party who said it made “most sense” and former Deputy leader of the SNP Jim Fairlie who pointed out that the Scottish government’s working commission themselves advocated a currency union with the rest of the UK only “in the immediate aftermath of independence.”
Former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson, said: “If there is to be any economic advantage with independence, it is to ensure that we have all the tools to manage its economy differently from the Union. The elephant in the room is the domination of the UK economy by London and the South of England. Increasingly, under the Union, that is where the prosperity, the increasing population and the political clout are to be found.”
The debate over currency between those in favour of independence was described by Better Together campaign chief Blair McDougall as “the separation coalition … openly attacking one another’s policies”
Mr McDougall added: “The past week has exposed the crisis of credibility that lies at the heart of the nationalist case for separation. Be it on the EU, NATO, Currency or Pensions everything that the SNP campaign asserts does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. When challenged, their policies simply fall apart.”
However the SNP hit back by pointing out that the anti-independence coalition were now backtracking on earlier claims that an independent Scotland would be forced to adopt the euro.
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing also highlighted the differences on policy amongst the Unionist parties when it came to the euro. The Lib Dems are officially still in favour of joining the euro, whilst Labour has still not ruled it out whereas their No campaign allies the Tories have rejected joining the euro out of hand.
Responding, Ms Ewing said
“Up until just a few weeks ago the anti-independence parties were insisting that an independent Scotland would have no option but to use the euro, and that scare story has been comprehensively rebutted.
“And of course only a week ago Alistair Darling was telling us that nothing George Osborne says has got much credibility – yet he is acting as the Tory Chancellor’s chief spokesperson in Scotland.
“The pound is Scotland’s currency every bit as much as it is the rest of the UK’s, and Scottish Government policy for a formal sterling area post-independence is clear.
“One of the great benefits of independence is that we would have access to and control 100% of the revenue raised in Scotland, so that we can design tax and economic policies that are right for Scotland.”
“The No campaign wants to leave control of the fiscal and economic levers in George Osborne’s hands.”
In 2010, the Lib Dem manifesto stated: “We believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro. But Britain should join only when the economic conditions are right, and in the present economic situation, they are not at the moment.”
The Labour party manifesto included the pledge: “On the euro, we hold to our promise that there will be no membership of the single currency without the consent of the British people in a referendum.”
The Conservatives dismissed any possibility of joining the euro: “We will work constructively with the EU, but we will not hand over any more areas of power and we will never join the euro.”