Pounding away? Scotland White Paper

When the First Minister Carwyn Jones came to Scotland last week, he certainly hit a raw nerve with the SNP-led Scottish Government when he indicated that he would veto any attempt by Scotland to retain the pound in a currency union.

The issue of the rest of the UK standing in the way of such a union came up a number of times in the news conference which Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond held today to launch the White Paper. In fact it's a critical point at the heart of the blueprint for an independent Scotland.

A number of times Mr Salmond was questioned about the way he made assertions about the currency in the document when so much depends on what the rest of the UK allows.

His answer is that it will make economic sense to create a union because trading across the border is so strong.

Mr Salmond was dismissive about Carwyn Jones' comments during the news conference. He also mentioned Wales when talking about interest rates. He was asked how he felt about interest rates being set by the Bank of England if Scotland keeps the pound.

His answer was that in effect it wouldn't be a problem because unemployment is lower in Scotland than many parts of the UK so it could handle it if rates were raised however he said it would be a problem in a country like Wales because the economy is that much weaker.

The polls are still showing a strong no vote as the likely result although the big caveat is the number of unknowns out there. But even that is a matter of debate. Professor John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde says this is being overplayed, and that the polls are not shifting - which means the yes campaign needs a game changer. The question is whether the White Paper can provide it. It was never going to answer all the questions because so much is going to be subject to negotiation.

Much of that was predicted, as was the sense that, for me, many of the policies in the White Paper read like a party manifesto, despite the fact that it was put together by civil servants.

The other question is what could it all mean for Wales?

Carwyn Jones' intervention last week does mean Wales is being talked about in a way it wasn't when I was here in September.

As ever there are lots of ifs and buts, and it depends who you speak to. I caught up with the former Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy before flying up to Scotland for today's launch. He believes there will be more powers for Wales whatever the vote next September, and interestingly he believes it all could result in pressure for some form of English regional government.

More powers are on their way to Wales anyway in borrowing and some taxes like stamp duty, and potentially partial control over income tax. There are various blocks currently in the way in relation to income tax. The first big one is that the Welsh Government says it doesn't want control unless there are changes to the Barnett formula, which is the system that governs how the devolved nations in the UK are funded by Westminster.

One result of the Scottish referendum, be it a yes or a no vote, could be that the formula is changed and as a result one major stumbling block is removed.

Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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