By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
Labour leader Ed Miliband has confirmed he will join the Conservative party in blocking Scotland from forming a currency union should the people of Scotland vote for independence.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Miliband said Scotland’s currency union was an economic choice that Labour was clear about, and tried to downplay claims by the SNP that the UK is now in a period of dominance from the Conservative party. However, Mr Miliband’s comments were in keeping with those previously of the coalition government, which has been accused of “scaremongering” voters into a No vote.
Mr Miliband said: “All the lessons of the Eurozone tell us if you’re going to have a currency union, you also need to have a fiscal union that we [already] have across the United Kingdom and that is the sensible economic choice. This isn’t about the politics. This is about the sensible economic choice and that is why I’m very clear about that.”
Mr Miliband’s speech was billed as an attempt by the Labour leader to try and bring the Scottish left on board, despite his insistence that the Labour party would stand in the way of a currency union. In his speech, Mr Miliband claimed that working people on both sides of the border would be left worse off if Scotland voted for independence.
Under a Labour government, Mr Miliband said,workers instead could demand fixed-hours contracts if they worked regular hours over six months for the same employer; gain a fixed-hours contract automatically after working regular hours for over a year; and be assured of protection from employers forcing them to be available all hours and presenting them from working for other employers.
Commenting on the Scotland visit, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond slammed the Labour leader.
He said: “Ed Miliband has zero credibility when he comes to Scotland to talk about social justice.
“He backs a No campaign which is being bankrolled by rich Tory donors and which is aimed at keeping Westminster’s undemocratic grip on Scotland.
“Labour has abandoned its principles and its leadership by working hand in glove with the Tories and the Westminster establishment against Scotland taking its future into its own hands.
“That is why so many leading and respected Labour figures have said they will be voting Yes in September and are urging others to do so.
“And it is also why so many ordinary Labour voters are planning to vote Yes in the referendum, as the opinion polls increasingly show.”
Mr Salmond added that a Yes vote in the upcoming independence referendum meant that Scotland could be sure of its own powers.
“A Yes vote will mean that we never again have to endure unpopular Westminster Tory governments that we didn’t elect – and independence will mean Scotland always gets the governments we vote for, allowing us to take the action we want on issues like the Bedroom Tax, the living wage and zero hours contracts.
“Ed Miliband’s pledges on zero hours contracts are fatally undermined by the fact Labour has voted to keep such contracts in place in Wales.
“Ed Miliband may also try to claim this his campaigning in Scotland is part of a stepping stone strategy to deliver a Labour victory at Westminster – but he claimed the same thing in the 2011 Holyrood election campaign and that ended in unmitigated disaster for him and his party.”