By Martin Kelly
The threat by London based pro-Union parties that they will block a currency union with an independent Scotland is a pre-negotiation bargaining position, a world renowned economist has said.
Nobel Prize winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz has said he believes Westminster’s currency bluff is nothing more than campaign rhetoric, saying that “The position of England today is obviously bargaining, trying to change the politics of the electoral process.”
Speaking to Bloomberg News, Professor Stiglitz – who is a member of the Fiscal Commission that advises the Scottish Government – went on to say that the position of the Westminster parties would change if Scots voted Yes, adding: “Once [Scots] get independence, if that happens, then I think there would be a very different position.”
The intervention from one of the world’s most respected economists will be a blow to the pro-Union campaign which has focused its fire on what it believes is a weakness in the Yes campaign. Unionists have highlighted a refusal by First Minister Alex Salmond to put forward a currency Plan B.
Recent polls have suggested currency has not had the effect No campaign strategists wished, with support for Yes increasing as issues such as the NHS and welfare have moved into centre stage. The currency strategy was dealt a further blow this week when the No campaign’s own expert, former Scottish Enterprise Head Jack Perry, conceded that a currency union was indeed the best option for a newly independent Scotland.
The opportunity for Scotland to take action to tackle inequality was also highlighted by Professor Stiglitz – who said that the “underlying drive of this is a belief, of a large number of people in Scotland, almost surely a majority that the approach to success of reducing inequality within Scotland is a more what you might call social democratic approach.”
Professor Stiglitz (pictured) argued that Scotland could have more success in tackling inequality than the rest of the UK as it benefits from, “An approach which emphasises free university education for everybody, a more social solidarity, programmes that continue to get access to healthcare for everybody and those policies are working. And that’s a very different view from say the Cameron conservative policies in England where they are raising tuition for universities so the two parts of the UK are moving in very different directions.”
Welcoming the Professor’s contribution, SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie said:
“There is perhaps no economist in the world that is more respected than Professor Stiglitz – and so his comments today are a stark reminder to the No camp that the experts – just like the people of Scotland – can see through their bluff on the pound.
“Professor Stiglitz is also right to say that Scotland is heading in a different direction to the Cameron conservatives on education, inequality and health. A Yes vote gives us the opportunity to tackle inequality and to highlight Scotland’s different approach from the austerity and cuts agenda of the Westminster establishment.
“The UK is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world thanks to the austerity agenda of Westminster – and a Yes vote next month is our one opportunity to take action to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous place.”