Darling calls for immediate referendum

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Former chancellor Alistair Darling has urged the Scottish Government to hold an immediate independence referendum claiming that a delay will stoke resentment against Westminster.

Mr Darling, who was chancellor during the years when the financial crisis was incubating made his call whilst giving a speech at the David Hume Institute Annual Lecture aimed at linking the economic future of Scotland to the fate of the banks in recent years.

Without referring to his own role in the lack of regulation which led to crisis and austerity he said Scotland will be better placed to deal with future financial shocks as part of the union. Both the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the former Chancellor took the decision to bail out banks after their policy of “light touch” regulation led to an epidemic of fraud which led the financial crisis. A decision which is now leading to soveriegn debt crisis and public sector cuts.

No convincing case was made by the former Labour Chancellor as to why bank shareholders and bondholders, who are mostly large investors based in London, had to be bailed out at all.

Mr Darling said: “At the time RBS collapsed it had a balance sheet only slightly less than the size of the entire output of the UK – not Scottish – economy. It was difficult enough for the UK to intervene. It would have been harder still for an independent Scotland.

“It is a practical example of my belief that Scotland is better, stronger, more prosperous as part of the United Kingdom.”

Referring to the issue of independence Mr Darling sought to convince Scots that there is no connection between the economy and the economic powers that independence would bring Scotland. He said Scotland “has more pressing problems than changing the constitution”.

Much akin to Labour’s election strategy the former Chancellor sought to frame the issue of the forthcoming independence referendum in negative and alarming terms. He said: “I fear, however, the plan is to spend the next two and a half years deliberately provoking trouble with Westminster, stoking up a sense of grievance.

“If efforts are to be spent building resentment rather than tackling Scotland’s problems within existing powers, then it will prove a very damaging period for the country and indeed for our psyche.”