Scottish independence: Attacks on currency plans

Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is 'photobombed' by a Yes campaigner in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie Cheung
Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is 'photobombed' by a Yes campaigner in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie Cheung
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THE leaders of the No campaign warned of the dangers of independence as they took to the streets of Scotland yesterday to mark the final month of the campaign.

Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander accused Alex Salmond during a campaign event in Glasgow of “burying his head in the sand” on critical issues such as the SNP’s plan to share the pound in a formal currency union with the remainder of the UK, EU membership and funding for public services.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander pledged UK government funds for key industries if Scots vote No.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont claimed even SNP backers “can see through Alex Salmond’s promises” as she campaigned in Edinburgh Eastern – a seat held by nationalist justice minister Kenny MacAskill.

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The attacks on the SNP’s independence plans came as the referendum campaign entered its final month yesterday as both sides ramped up their efforts to win the support of undecided voters.

Mr Alexander announced a series of funding packages he said would be delivered over the next year as he began the first day of a week-long speaking tour across Scotland, as part of the UK government’s campaign for a No vote.

The Treasury minister said that the £48.5 million financial backing for the Speyside Biomass Power project would supply electricity to power more than 20,000 homes and provide green energy for the Macallan whisky distillery.

Mr Alexander, a Highlands MP, said: “The Speyside guarantee is fantastic news for Scotland’s economic future. It will power thousands of homes with clean energy, and also support the whisky industry, a cornerstone of our economy, which brings in billions for Scotland and employs over 10,000 people.”

The Lib Dem minister also set out plans to extend the VAT refund scheme which helps museums and galleries with the costs of providing free access to the public, during a visit to V&A Museum of Design, Dundee and Embrace Arts.

There was also a pledge from Mr Alexander of £1m to support Gaelic language TV programme making at the BBC.

However, a Yes campaign leader hit back, as he accused the UK government of planning to impose cuts and privatisations on Scotland after a No vote.

Campaigning in Glasgow yesterday, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “There are real threats and risks if we stay in the UK. People in Scotland are really waking up to the extent to which the NHS in England is being privatised, that’s coming up a lot.

“People know if we stay in the UK the austerity agenda, the pressure on public services, budget cuts, and all of that will continue.”

Labour’s Douglas Alexander – the party’s UK General Election chief – launched the latest stage of the Better Together campaign in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street yesterday, when he joined a group of activists bearing “No Thanks” banners and balloons.

However, Mr Alexander had an unwelcome intervention from a Yes supporter, who managed to gatecrash a No campaign picture opportunity and stood behind the MP as he was being photographed.

Some Better Together activists joined in an impromptu rendition of Flower Of Scotland sung by a nearby busker while Mr Alexander called for clarity on Scotland’s currency.

Mr Alexander, Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, said: “What the people want isn’t so much a new Declaration of Arbroath but the declaration of some answers on the currency, on Europe, on how they will meet the additional costs and consequences of independence.

“We need some basic, straightforward answers from the First Minister. This morning 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 Scotland’s currency will be?”

He added: “We don’t know the terms and timescale that it will take for Scotland to re-enter the EU and we don’t know how the nationalists will close the additional £6 billion funding gap that their policy of independence will create. That creates a real and present danger to our schools and our hospitals here in Scotland.

“I talked to hundreds of voters in Paisley at the weekend and I was conscious just how many people voluntarily raised the issue of currency on the doorstep.

“Burying his head in the sand at this point is a bit like digging a hole that is deeper for him in the coming days.

“If he thinks he can run and hide from answering these questions in the coming days, then I think he’s in for a disappointment come 18 September.”

Ms Lamont said the Yes side had lost momentum and was heading for defeat on 18 September as she canvassed votes during a series of door-to-door visits in Edinburgh yesterday.

Ms Lamont said: “We know that the No vote has represented the quiet majority for the last two years and our sense is that position is hardening.

“People can see through Alex Salmond’s promises and know it’s too good to be true.”