Scottish independence: Politicians clash on currency options

Jenny Marra, Patrick Harvie, Stewart Hosie and Ruth Davidson The politicians clashed during a BBC TV debate, ahead of the independence referendum

Scottish politicians have clashed over plans to keep the pound as part of a formal currency union if the nation votes for independence.

The SNP's Stewart Hosie said the move made sense, but Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the plan was falling apart.

Labour's Jenny Marra said a currency union would be difficult to sell to the rest of the UK.

The clashes came during a BBC TV debate ahead of the independence referendum.

On 18 September, voters in Scotland will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The Scottish government has said a formal currency union, which would retain sterling and the services of the Bank of England between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, was the best option for both.

Start Quote

If the UK government sees a 'Yes' vote I think it would be absurd and outrageous for the UK government to fold their arms and say 'we're not even going to sit at the table and discuss with the Scottish government what the best transition is'”

End Quote Patrick Harvie Green MSP

However, the three main Westminster parties - the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - said they would not sign up to such an arrangement.

Mr Hosie, the SNP's Treasury spokesman, said Chancellor George Osborne had refused to outline the cost to English firms to do business north of the border if an independent Scotland was "impossibly forced out of sterling".

He said: "The reason I'm so certain that we will have sterling, in a formal currency union, is not just because it makes sense for Scotland, but because it makes sense for everybody across this island.

"We want independence; we want Scotland to take its own political decisions. But we keep the trade, we keep the social union, we keep the common travel area, precisely because it is in everybody's best interests."

Ms Davidson said the Scottish government's plans were "rapidly beginning to fall apart", adding: "In the past week, we've seen his plans on the currency union be decried not just by the head of the Bank of England, but from the Institute of Directors, from the CBI.

"We've seen the chief advisor of the Treasury say that he would advise, not just this government, but any government from signing up to this."

Ms Marra told the programme: "If Scotland votes 'Yes', how on earth are English and Welsh MPs meant to sell this to their constituents, that they should enter into a currency union with us who have just rejected them?

"They should give us sovereignty as part of a currency union? They're just not going to buy it.

banknotes The issue of currency in an independent Scotland has become a central issue in the debate

"I think the case that Alex Salmond is putting forward is a mess now, it's a complete disaster, it's been completely discredited."

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the pro-independence Scottish Greens - who supports Scotland having its own currency in the event of a 'Yes' vote - said each side of the debate had a range of views.

He added: "But certainly, if the UK government sees a 'Yes' vote take place in September, I think it would be absurd and outrageous, and not in their interests, for the UK government, for its first act, its first decision, to fold their arms and say 'we're not even going to sit at the table and discuss with the Scottish government what the best transition is'.

"And whether that transition is to the monetary union which the SNP prefers, or to some other option, there will need to be good will, negotiation, and a willingness to accept the democratic choice of the people of Scotland."

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