Debt – and assets

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The technicalities of the responsibility for the United Kingdom’s debt after independence may puzzle most ordinary voters.

But the significance of the Treasury statement, accepting that responsibility until 2016 (your report, 14 January), for post-referendum negotiations cannot be underestimated.

First Minister Alex Salmond has made some cogent points. Firstly, the organisation that issues debt must be prepared to honour future payments; secondly, that the national debt is a liability.

If Scotland is to take on a portion of that, it must be in return for a share of the assets – notably North Sea oil and the currency.

In other words, negotiation will be the name of the game after a Yes vote in this September’s referendum. The Treasury has acted to stifle uncertainty in the financial markets. But there are many areas where uncertainty prevails and Westminster can act now to allay it.

This is true not just about oil, but over citizenship and passports. The Scottish Government’s position on this has been explained in the white paper Scotland’s Future.

It would not compromise the coalition government’s position if it was to reassure passport holders now about their status – if only to ensure security for holidaymakers abroad after the independence date.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s refusal to pre-negotiate could inconvenience many people who regard the whole constitutional question as abstract and distant.

His government should show some maturity and provide information now.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

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