There is “absolutely nothing” that Alex Salmond can do to ensure that an independent Scotland would be able to keep the pound, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has claimed, reigniting the debate over whether a currency union with the rest of the UK could happen.
Shortly before Danny Alexander made the comments in a speech at Dundee University, a new poll showed that the UK Government’s refusal to share the pound has made Scots more likely to vote in favour of independence than against it, in a boost to the Yes campaign.
All three main Westminster political parties have ruled out a currency union with an independent Scotland – a statement which 28 per cent of people polled by Panelbase said made them more likely to vote Yes. Only 25 per cent said it made them more likely to vote No.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the findings as “extremely interesting”. She added: “The poll shows that the bullying of the Westminster parties continues to backfire, with more people being more likely to vote Yes because of it. The No campaign’s supposed trump card has indeed turned out to be a bluff.”
Reiterating the Government’s stance on the subject, Mr Alexander said a currency union was “out of the question”, adding: “As part of the Union we get certainty about Scotland’s currency, because staying in the UK is the only way we can keep the pound. As we've seen in the Euro area, it simply would not work without a full political, economic and fiscal union, which is, of course, precisely what we have now and what the nationalists want to dissolve.”
Earlier in the day Mr Salmond suggested that informally using the pound without the agreement of the rest of the UK and the Bank of England would be a valid “transitional option” post-independence. Such an arrangement, known as “sterlingisation”, was proposed by the Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission as an alternative to a currency union.
“As a transitional option, the Fiscal Commission said it was viable, but there are a number of other viable options,” the First Minister told BBC Radio Scotland. “But the key point we’re making is arguing for the sterling union, which we think is the best option for Scotland.”
His comments were criticised by the Better Together campaign, which said it was unclear what would follow the transitional period. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “We need some basic, straightforward answers from the First Minister. He talked about transitional arrangements on the currency. Transition to what? The postal ballots drop in just a week’s time and still we don’t have the most basic answer on what will Scotland’s currency be.”