ALEX Salmond has described Westminster claims that an independent Scotland could not share sterling and other UK-wide assets as “insulting” and “demeaning”.
The First Minister claimed unionist attacks on plans for a currency union and future European Union membership had backfired. Scots were “sick and tired” of interventions by Westminster politicians, he said, insisting that an independent nation would have the same right to use the pound and be part of the EU as the UK does.
Mr Salmond’s rebuttal yesterday came after Chancellor George Osborne effectively ruled out SNP proposals to keep the pound after a Yes vote and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said it might be “impossible” for an independent Scotland to become an EU member.
The First Minister hit out at the “destructive campaigning style and rhetoric of the Westminster establishment”.
He accused the three main Westminster parties of being “out of touch and arrogant” after Labour and the Liberal Democrats backed Mr Osborne’s claim that a currency union would not happen.
Mr Salmond also responded to comments from Mr Barroso, who claimed it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for a separate Scotland to get the necessary approval from the 28 member states to join the EU.
Mr Salmond said that EU law “would require all parties to negotiate in good faith and a spirit of co-operation” after any Yes vote. He also highlighted the fact that, despite Mr Barroso’s comments, no member state had suggested it was considering blocking membership for Scotland.
Mr Salmond said: “The decision is one for member states, but not to recognise the democratic will of Scotland would run counter to the entire European Union ideal of democratic expression and inclusion.
“It would pose a challenge to the integrity of the European Union even greater and more fundamental than the threat of British withdrawal.
“That is why, of course, no member state has suggested they would seek to block Scottish membership.”
Mr Salmond also warned that UK businesses would face £500 million in transaction costs if his plan for a shared currency union was blocked.
He told business leaders in Aberdeen yesterday that Mr Osborne’s “diktat” had “backfired badly” on those campaigning for Scotland to stay in the UK. And he insisted the main UK parties would change tack on the issue of currency if Scots voted for independence.
Mr Salmond said: “What is said by Westminster during the heat of a political campaign will differ greatly from the reality of life after the referendum.
“In the event of a Yes vote, the campaigning will stop and the common-sense agreements will start.”
In a speech in Edinburgh last week, Mr Osborne said: “If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound.”
However, Mr Salmond said that stance would backfire when Scots go to the ballot box in September.
The First Minister said Mr Osborne’s speech had been received “poorly” in Scotland.
He went on: “Phone-ins, newspaper polls taken after the Chancellor’s statement indicated his diktat had backfired badly.
“People do become sick and tired of the succession of day-tripping Conservative ministers flying up to Scotland to deliver lectures and then flying back to Westminster again.
“No-one with a semblance of understanding of Scottish history and indeed the Scottish character would have made a speech such as the Chancellor delivered last week. To be told that we have no rights to assets jointly built up is as insulting as it is demeaning.
“To be told there are things we can’t do will certainly elicit a Scottish response that is as resolute as it is uncomfortable to the No campaign – it is, ‘Yes, we can’. It is a sign of how out of touch and arrogant the Westminster establishment have become.”
He also hit out at Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls and claimed the party’s backing for Mr Osborne’s position would return to “haunt” leader Ed Miliband. Mr Salmond said: “I predict that moment will prove to be one of Westminster Labour’s leadership’s biggest misjudgments. Siding with the man who is intent on dismantling the post-war welfare state and imposing permanent austerity will haunt the two Eds.”
Mr Salmond, speaking after his Aberdeen speech, claimed that even pro-Union figures had accepted their campaign had been damaged by the Chancellor’s intervention.
He said: “I think the last week has been excellent, certainly the Osborne speech. Even the Better Together campaign are accepting it has caused them some, as they put it, ‘short-term damage’. I think the damage will be a bit longer-term than they think. There have been people moving towards Yes decisively, in reaction to the Osborne speech.
“The more that George Osborne comes to Scotland, I think the better for the Yes campaign. I should probably send him his bus fare to come back.”
Mr Salmond also repeated his call for a head-to-head public debate with David Cameron when the Prime Minister visits Aberdeenshire next week.
However, the PM dismissed Mr Salmond’s response to the Chancellor and the EC president as an “empty and rather angry speech”.
Mr Cameron said: “The point is that Alex Salmond is now a man without a plan.
“He told us that he wanted to have a currency union, and that now looks under threat. He told us that he wanted Scotland as part of the European Union. That is under threat.
“He is making, I think, quite an empty and rather angry speech, but he hasn’t got a plan and I think people will see that he hasn’t got a plan.”
Meanwhile, Better Together leader Alistair Darling said the debate that has raged in recent days will be seen as the “defining” part of the referendum campaign in years to come.
The former chancellor spoke as he met business owners, credit union representatives and supporters of the No campaign in Edinburgh yesterday.
He said: “The last few days will be seen as the defining part of the campaign, as they have shot right at the heart of the credibility of Alex Salmond.”
VOICES FOR AND AGAINST
George Osborne: “If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound.”
Alex Salmond: “To be told that we have no rights to assets jointly built up is as insulting as it is demeaning.”
Osborne: “There’s no legal reason why the rest of the UK would need to share its currency with Scotland. A vote to leave the UK is also a vote to leave these unions and those transfers and those monetary arrangements.”
Salmond: “The Chancellor downplayed the disadvantages to the rest of the UK from a sterling zone. He said you don’t need to be in a currency union to trade with other countries. No you don’t. But it can impose a cost – a big cost.”
Osborne: “So when the nationalists say, ‘The pound is as much ours as the rest of the UK’s’, are they really saying that an independent Scotland could insist that taxpayers in a nation it has just voted to leave … had to continue to back the currency of this new foreign country?”
Salmond: “Let me be clear. For Scots, whether independent or not, the rest of the UK will never be ‘foreign’. I don’t believe his ‘foreigner’ language represents any significant view in Scotland or indeed England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Osborne: “If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound … I could not as Chancellor recommend that we could share the pound with an independent Scotland.”
Salmond: “The Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission Working Group has already set out a range of viable currency options for an independent Scotland. Two Nobel laureates concluded that sharing the pound in a sterling zone was the best option for Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
Osborne: “Sharing the pound is not in the interests of either the people of Scotland or the rest of the UK. The people of the rest of the UK wouldn’t accept it and parliament wouldn’t pass it.”
Salmond: “We could proceed jointly and
co-operatively with shared risk. In other words, one of the Chancellor’s key arguments rests on a misrepresentation.”
Jose Manuel Barroso: “It will be extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state.”
Salmond: “It would require all parties to negotiate in good faith and a spirit of co-operation.”
Barroso: “It’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible … getting the agreement of the others.”
Salmond: “Not to recognise the democratic will of Scotland would run counter to the entire European Union ideal of democratic expression and inclusion. It would pose a challenge to the integrity of the European Union even greater and more fundamental than the threat of British withdrawal.”
‘Independence will mean fairer Scotland’
DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed an independent Scotland would be wealthier and fairer, with an end to policies such as the controversial bedroom tax.
She made the claims during a question and answer session on independence in Dunblane yesterday.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We have a strong and diverse economy, however, to build a more prosperous nation we need full control over the economic levers that are crucial to correcting the regional imbalances that exist within the UK.
“Independence would also allow us to build a fairer Scotland … we could build a welfare system that builds social justice, solidarity, and helps those who need support.”