IN the event of Scottish independence, people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should not be given a formal say on whether Scotland enters a currency union with them, according to First Minister Alex Salmond.
Mr Salmond rejected suggestions that a second referendum should be held on sharing sterling if Scotland votes for independence on September 18.
“A referendum would not be required, it should be a negotiating position between the rest of the UK and the Scottish Government after a Yes vote,” he said.
“The task we have is to explain the benefits of the sterling zone, not just to the people of Scotland, where polls indicate very, very strong support, but also to the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.”
He set out his position while underlining the Scottish Government’s plan to push ahead with the proposal for currency despite it being ruled out by all three main UK parties at Westminster.
‘Share and share alike’
Chancellor George Osborne visited Edinburgh on February 13 to announce he would not consider signing up to the idea, based on official Treasury advice.
A poll published four days ago suggests 54% of people in Britain think the rest of the UK should not share the pound with an independent Scotland, against just 22% who backed sharing sterling.
Mr Salmond, speaking at a press lunch with Scottish media, said the proposal is in the best interests of everyone.
“Our position is share and share alike,” he said.
“We think it’s right and proper that we have a sterling union that is in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
The alternative is for Scotland to refuse a fair share of UK debt, he said.
“I believe that once these implications are better and more fully understood then it’s unlikely that any chancellor, George Osborne or not, would maintain that position,” he said.
He also raised the prospect of further referendums on independence if there is a No vote this September.
“Will I continue to argue the case for Scottish independence? Of course I will,” he said.
“I’ve said on the record on many occasions that my view is that referendums are a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
“There was a referendum in 1979 and a generation later there was a referendum in 1997. My view is that is the sort of time period in which referendums take place.”
He said that some people are likely to switch support to independence if a No vote is followed by a England-led vote to leave the European Union.
Asked if the move would lay the grounds for a fresh Scottish independence referendum, he said: “I certainly know people for whom this is a defining issue, some surprising people.
“I’m not going to name them without permission, but there are people I’d never have expected to ever support the cause of Scottish independence have said to me personally that for them it is a touchstone issue.
“This is one of the areas of clarity we need from the Prime Minister in terms of what would happen if Scotland is pulled out of the European Union on the back of a vote south of the border.”
An SNP spokesman referred to an earlier poll on currency.
“A recent poll in the rest of the UK showed that 71% of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would want to share the pound in a currency union with an independent Scotland - George Osborne speaks for the Westminster establishment, not for the people,” he said.
A Better Together spokesman said: “Alex Salmond has a bad habit of telling people in the rest of the UK what’s in their best interests without going to the bother of asking them. Recent polls have shown overwhelming opposition to a currency union if Scotland left the UK.
“There is a clear pattern emerging here. On one side you have the three UK parties saying a currency union won’t happen and people in the rest of the UK supporting that. On the other side you have Alex Salmond saying they are all wrong and only he is right. It simply isn’t credible.
“Now that we know a currency union is off the table, Alex Salmond has to tell us what his Plan B is. Would we rush to adopt the euro or set up an unproven separate currency? Or would we use the pound in the way that Panama uses the dollar, with no control over interest rates or the financial back up of a lender of last resort if things go wrong? This would be a disaster for Scotland, as expert after expert has pointed out.”