ALEX Salmond and the SNP should welcome the two opportunities they have been given in the past 24 hours to create a fairer Scotland with independence.
First, it is George Osborne ruling out a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom (rUK). If Scotland has its own currency there will also be full control over Scotland’s monetary policy (ie interest rates). Secondly, it is the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, adjusting interest rate policy in order to keep UK interest rates low for longer. This may benefit London and the south of England – where property indebtedness is high and rate changes will have a dramatic effect. Low rates also greatly help property speculators, who prevent many first-time buyers getting onto the property ladder (it is easier to get a buy-to-let mortgage than a residential mortgage).
In Scotland, low interest rates are penalising savers and pensioners, many have seen their standards of living drop dramatically in the past few years. Raising interest rates will repay those who have been prudent. It will also help dampen the effects of property speculation and keep house prices more affordable for first-time buyers.
If Mr Salmond and the SNP are serious about creating a fairer Scotland he should publish proposals for a Scottish currency, citing all the potential benefits of it – rather than sticking to an half-way house solution on the currency which is ostensibly more political than practical.
CHANCELLOR George Osborne is renowned in Westminster as a canny political strategist, but in deciding to rule out a currency union with an independent Scotland I believe he has fundamentally misread the political mood north of the Border.
Those on the Yes side of the argument – some childish name-calling notwithstanding – have generally struck a mature and conciliatory tone in terms of post-Yes vote negotiations. We would, they say, accept our share of debt, allow a reasonable timescale for the removal of Trident, maintain open borders and so on.
It is striking that any notion of post-Yes hostility and antagonism on these islands has come entirely from those campaigning to keep the UK together.
We have heard suggestions of annexing Faslane for rUK, erecting border posts and now the threat to throw a ring of steel around our hitherto shared currency.
I doubt such isolationism would be in anyone’s interests in the cold light of day after a Yes vote.
Mr Osborne’s escalation represents a huge political gamble, one that seems unnecessary and odd given the pro-Union lead in the polls. He may just succeed in scaring some into voting No but – more likely – his hostility could be the defining moment that makes clear to reasonable, undecided voters that the relationship between Westminster and Scotland is no longer one of mutual respect, nor worth preserving.
North Berwick, East Lothian