Now make your case against a currency union, Mr Salmond

Scotland could create its own pound in the way that Ireland did in 1978

Share

Those making the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom have had the better of the argument in the past 10 days, since George Osborne, the Chancellor, delivered his speech opposing a currency union.

The Government hopes to press home the advantage with this week's meeting of the Cabinet in Aberdeen: a symbolic affirmation of the Union.

Constitutional purists will splutter about the use of the Cabinet as a travelling circus, the further relegation of the supreme collective decision-making body to a ceremonial photo-opportunity. Pragmatists will note that flexibility, innovation and gradual change has always been the genius of the British constitution. They will note that the Cabinet ceased to be a forum for live policy debate in Margaret Thatcher's time, and that it was Gordon Brown who started holding occasional meetings outside London for symbolic purposes. Efficient government demands that decisions are taken in smaller groups and Cabinet subcommittees, reserving full Cabinet for final approval or crises, while there is nothing wrong with a little symbolism – and it does Cabinet ministers good to be reminded of the country outside the capital.

That is also why it was right for the Chancellor to go to Edinburgh to deliver his speech on the future of the pound if Scotland should become an independent country. It was a serious speech about a serious question, and it was, rightly, delivered in a matter-of-fact style without rhetoric or party politics. In an unusual display of cross-party unity, his argument was supported by Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, and Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In an even more unusual display of civil service engagement in public controversy, it was also supported by Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury.

So far, the response of the Scottish National Party has been disappointing. Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, accused the forces united against him of bullying. He is quite right, of course: the way in which Westminster ranks closed was choreographed to intimidate and disconcert that section of Scottish opinion that is worried about the uncertainty of a big change. But the argument against a currency union requires a more persuasive response than a complaint that the other side is trying to win.

Indeed, Mr Salmond needs a better case than the one counter-argument he has advanced so far, which is that, if Scotland votes for independence, the government of the rest of the UK would change its tune and negotiate a currency union after all. That is a risk that hesitant nationalists might be unwilling to take. Mr Salmond needs to spell out a back-up plan.

If an independent Scotland fails to negotiate a currency union with London, it could create its own pound in the way that Ireland did in 1978. But these are options that need to be set out in detail and with rigour – a quality that too much of the Scottish government's white paper on independence lacked.

The unionists have started to defend what they believe in with some force – and to come to Scotland to do it – but also with serious argument that respects Scotland's right to make its decision.

The SNP needs to respond, over the next seven months, with the same commitment, confidence and attention to detail. There is a better case for independence than claiming victim status.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before