By a Newsnet reporter
Comments from an as-yet unidentified UK Government Minister that there will be a currency-union between a newly independent Scotland and the rest of the UK has “holed the anti-independence campaign “below the waterline” First Minister Alex Salmond has said.
Mr Salmond’s claim followed revelations contained in a London based newspaper that a coalition minister had admitted that threats of no currency agreement were merely a campaign tactic and that Westminster’s stance would change dramatically following a Yes vote.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the threat from UK Chancellor George Osborne to block a currency-union were driven by head of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling.
The newspaper reported an unnamed source as saying: “Alistair [Darling] and Andrew [Dunlop] are running the show, we just did what they said”
The Scottish Government has seized on the reports as evidence that the threat from Mr Osborne, together with Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, is not serious and is simply a pre-referendum campaign tactic. The reports have led to rushed statements of denial from senior coalition figures.
Commenting on the ongoing fallout following the Guardian’s currency story, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“These revelations indicate that everything we have said about Westminster’s bluff and bluster on currency has been correct.
“The panicked reaction of the No campaign over the last 48 hours shows they know that their scaremongering has been holed below the waterline – the story is a very important demolition of the No campaign and its self-styled ‘Project Fear’ tactics.
“It has been a very difficult 48 hours for the No campaign and it’s going to get a lot worse because they are not basing their arguments on a positive vision of the future.
“They have based their arguments on whatever they can say or do in this campaign to try and intimidate the people of Scotland out of voting for independence and their bluff is being called.
“Now it’s been seen through and that bluff has been called, the No Campaign will have to take the political consequences, which will be severe. George Osborne and Ed Balls joining hands and reiterating the scaremongering doesn’t deny the story.
“We are going to spend our time persuading the people of Scotland to vote for a better, more optimistic vision of the future. That is why we are gaining ground and that is why their campaign tactics are being exposed.”
Speculation is mounting over the identity of the coalition minister responsible for the comments. The attempt to link the Trident nuclear weapons system to post-Yes negotiations over currency has fuelled speculation that defence secretary Philip Hammond was responsible for the massive blunder.
However, quizzed on the BBC whether he was the senior minister referred to by the Guardian, Mr Hammond said: “Yes, I saw that. No, I have been in Washington, this last week.” Asked if he had spoken to the paper, he added: “I don’t think so”.
The Scottish Government moved swiftly to quash attempts by some media outlets to suggest that Trident could be part of the negotiations after the referendum.
Mr Salmond said: “On the issue of Trident, our opposition to nuclear weapons is not a campaign tactic or a negotiating position – it is one of the reasons for Scotland being independent.
“The negotiations will take place about share of debt, not about things like Trident, which we are unambiguously opposed to.”
At least one newspaper has been taken to task for publishing misleading information about the Scottish Government’s stance on Trident.
In a statement the Scottish Government said that contrary to assertions in today’s Sunday Express story, the Scottish Government has set a timescale for the withdrawal of Trident from Scotland following independence.
Page 14 of “Scotland’s Future” states: “Following a vote for independence, we would make early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence.”