Now make your case against a currency union, Mr Salmond

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


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

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral