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Scottish independence: Carmichael to quit if Yes

Alistair Carmichael has indicated he would join Team Scotland to negotiate the terms of independence. Picture Lisa Ferguson

Alistair Carmichael has indicated he would join Team Scotland to negotiate the terms of independence. Picture Lisa Ferguson

  • by David Maddox
 

THE Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has indicated he would resign from the coalition government in the event of a Yes vote and join Alex Salmond’s Team Scotland to negotiate the terms of independence.

Mr Carmichael told The Scotsman that if Scots were to vote Yes, he would accept an invitation made by the First Minister in Monday’s television debate for politicians from both sides of the referendum campaign to be part of a cross-party team working out the details of the new constitutional settlement.

The Liberal Democrat minister has become the most senior figure in the Better Together camp to confirm that he would sit at the negotiating table.

His comments were welcomed last night by the Scottish Government.

A source close to Mr Salmond said: “The First Minister went out of his way in the debate on Monday to make clear that, after a Yes vote, we will be focused on bringing Scotland together, and the negotiations will involve figures from well beyond the ranks of the SNP and the wider Yes campaign.”

Asked about his role in the coalition government if Scots vote for independence on 18 September, Mr Carmichael said that he would “find it difficult” to remain Scottish Secretary.

“It would be difficult to see how you could fit into a Cabinet which was at that point on its way to becoming part of a foreign country,” he added.

Pressed on whether he would resign, Mr Carmichael replied: “We will cross that bridge if we come to it.”

But he said that if invited, he would join the negotiating team. “Yes, if I was asked to,” he said. “I mean, if Scotland votes for independence then I will still want to be part of ­Scottish public political life.

“I would have to be realistic about what could be achieved, but you know I am not walking away from Scottish politics.

“If that is something that happens then, yes, I would want to get the best possible deal for Scotland. That’s what I do at the moment and that’s what I will always do in the future for as long as I hold the job I do.”

Mr Carmichael said he believed whoever was involved in negotiating Scotland’s future as an independent country would face a more difficult task than the Yes campaign has suggested. “Unlike Alex Salmond, I’m not going to try to pretend the job of that negotiating team will be straightforward or it will achieve the unachievable,” he said.

“If we go down the road of independence, there will be an enormously difficult path. I know which side I will be on, but I would much rather not be put in that position.”

Mr Carmichael went on to say that if he found himself in the position of negotiating Scotland’s breakaway from the rest of the UK, his “first priority” would be to his constituents in Orkney and Shetland.

“My primary responsibility is and always will be towards the communities I represent.” Mr Carmichael also warned yesterday that he could not support Mr Salmond’s preferred plan for a sterling zone with a shared currency, adding that a Yes vote was “not a mandate for Scotland keeping the pound”.

“On the currency, I think a currency union is a bad idea from Scotland’s point of view. We would put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage,” he told The Scotsman.

He said Mr ­Salmond’s claim that a Yes vote would give him a mandate for Scotland to keep the pound “highlights the weakness in the Yes position”.

He said: “It is not a mandate, certainly not a mandate for a currency union, which is their preferred option. A currency union is not in the gift of Alex Salmond. That is something that could only be achieved with the consent of the rest of the UK.”

Last night, sources close to Mr Carmichael insisted his position on being part of a post-referendum Team Scotland was “not new” and his Lib Dem predecessor Michael Moore had also ­suggested he could join the negotiating team.

The Better Together campaign declined to comment.

 

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