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White Paper: Salmond knocks back currency warnings

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  • by DAVID MADDOX AND EDDIE BARNES
 

ALEX Salmond has knocked back warnings that an independent Scotland and the UK could not maintain a “currency union” if voters south of the border decide to leave the EU.

The First Minister said it was “not a matter of concern” that the rest of the UK might quit the European Union in 2017, when David Cameron plans to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the bloc.

Such an eventuality would mean that an independent Scotland would be tied to the monetary decisions of a non-EU state, while holding obligations to the European Union in Brussels.

One leading academic, Fabian Zuleeg, the head of a leading European

think-tank the European Policy Centre, has said it would be “difficult to envisage” how such a complex cross-border arrangement could be made to work.

But speaking on the BBC, Mr Salmond said that other EU nations currently did not use the Euro, such as Sweden. An independent Scotland would not seek to join the Euro after independence either, he added. “If you’re not in the Euro, it’s not a matter of concern,” he said.

Restrictions

However, writing recently, Dr Zuleeg concluded that Scotland, as the EU member, may have to slap restrictions on the non-EU goods and services coming to and from England, its largest trading partner. He said this would be “potentially imposing very substantial costs on the Scottish economy.”

He added: “It is difficult to envisage such an arrangement, as a clash between two sets of rules could occur, creating legal uncertainty.”

He added: “If an independent Scotland retains Sterling and the UK leaves the EU there would also be a fundamental question whether such a currency union would be compatible with EU membership, given the obligations of European Economic and Monetary Union.”

The scenario would only happen if Scotland first votes Yes next year, and then becomes an EU member by 2016, as it states will happen.

The rest of the UK will then hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 if it elects another Conservative government in 2015.

David Cameron

THE “entire credibility” of the Scottish Government’s White Paper is called into question because of a lack of plan B on which currency an independent Scotland would use, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.

During exchanges in Prime Minister’s questions Mr Cameron said he agreed with the assessment made by Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central, and warned that the “blueprint for independence” raised more questions than it answered.

But in a heated atmosphere the Prime minister was branded “pathetic” by SNP Perth MP Pete Wishart for refusing to take part in a televised debate on Scotland’s future with First Minister Alex Salmond.

‘Between the people of Scotland’

Mr Cameron responded that the debate on independence is “between the people of Scotland” and said that the SNP were trying to create a “distraction” by demanding a televised debate involving him.

The Prime Minister’s answer so infuriated Western Isles Nationalist MP Angus MacNeil that the Speaker told him: “You should not be yapping at the Prime Minister like an overexcited puppy dog. It is unseemly. You can do a lot better if you try.”

Mr Cameron insisted that SNP First Minister Alex Salmond’s White Paper had done nothing to answer the problems of Scotland’s currency if the country splits from the rest of the United Kingdom next year.

The document, which runs to almost 670 pages, sets out the SNP administration’s aims for negotiating terms after a Yes vote on September 18 next year.

It confirms that ministers are relying on keeping the pound as currency, shared with the rest of the UK, and that it is working towards seamless transition to European Union statehood.

Questions

Mr Cameron said: “We have been waiting a long time for this document. We were told it would answer every question and yet no answer on the currency, no answer on the question of EU membership, no proper answers on Nato - we are just left a huge set of questions and frankly, the Scottish people have also got the prospect of a £1,000 bill as the price of separation.”

He said he agreed agreed with Mr Mr Sarwar who asked: “For two years the people of Scotland were promised they w ld answer all the questions. Instead they got a thick document full of false promise.

“In the absence of any detailed costings, it wasn’t a blueprint for independence but a wishlist. Given the entire White Paper is based on the assumption that Scotland would keep the pound as part of a Sterling zone with no Plan B, can you tell us with a lack of Plan B, (if) it calls in to question the entire credibility of the White Paper?”

Inverclyde Labour MP Iain McKenzie also used his question in parliament to draw attention to a lack of strategy of dealing with the big energy companies and linking worsening fuel poverty to independence.

Mr McKenzie said: “Does the Prime Minister realise that he has something in common with the SNP? He refuses to back Labour’s call for a freeze on energy bills and the plan announced yesterday for an independent Scotland shows clearly that the First Minister will not get to grips with the energy companies.”

SEE ALSO

Bill Jamieson: White paper fails examination

Tavish Scott: SNP’s white paper drops a clanger

Peter de Vink: Case for positive Yes vote mounting

Michael Kelly: Missed opportunity to open debate

Scotsman conference: The Independence White Paper: A Business Plan for Scotland?

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