ALEX Salmond is to hold talks with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney in the new year as pressure grows on the Scottish Government to come up with a currency alternative to its sterlingzone proposal for an independent Scotland.
The SNP First Minister confirmed that he has accepted Mr Carney’s invitation, issued three weeks ago, to hold talks on the Scottish Government’s plan to continue to use the pound in a formal sterlingzone, with the Bank of England as the lender of last resort.
Mr Salmond’s acceptance comes just days after the international credit rating agency Fitch warned against a sterlingzone and strongly suggested it could lead to a downgrade for both Scotland and the rest of the UK because it would be “unstable” and a subsequent exit by Scotland could bring “high volatility and market turbulence”.
It is understood the comments by Fitch have hardened attitudes in the Treasury against accepting the idea of a sterlingzone, which is at the heart of the economic policy for an independent Scotland outlined in the independence white paper last month.
The SNP maintains that a sterling zone is in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK despite other leading pro-independence figures, including Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie, calling for Scotland to have its own currency.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Salmond said he would make public as much information as he could from the talks with Mr Carney which will happen on a date yet to be fixed.
In London last month, Mr Carney said basic discussions were held between his predecessor, Sir Mervyn King, and the First Minister.
“I have not had any discussions with members of the Scottish Government. My predecessor did have some very basic technical discussions with Mr Salmond within the course of the last couple of years. I certainly welcome the opportunity to have those discussions,” he said.
“There has been an effort to set up a meeting and I’m sure it will happen at some point.”
When Mr Salmond was asked on BBC Radio Scotland whether he would meet Mr Carney he said: “Yes, that’s correct. The exact date hasn’t been agreed.”
He added: “I’ll keep private what needs to be kept private, but I’ll make public as much as I possibly can.”
Following the publication of a Treasury analysis paper showing that a sterlingzone would be potentially damaging, both Tory Chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it was “highly unlikely” to be accepted by the rest of the UK.
Labour shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said a Labour government would probably not agree either.
The Bank is independent of government, but agreement would needed between politicians from Scotland and the UK.
The Scottish and UK governments have both missed a deadline to agree a statement about what happens after the independence referendum.
The Electoral Commission asked both administrations to reach a shared position by yesterday.
John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: “During our assessment of the question we found people wanted impartial information about the referendum before they voted, so we asked both governments to agree a joint position on the process that will follow the referendum.
“We asked for this to be agreed by 20 December so that all the rules about what happens are clear.”