I WAS fortunate a few days ago to see a programme on BBC Parliament in which the Scottish affairs select committee on independence forensically questioned three professors on Scottish independence.
The three were from Oxford, Cambridge and Glasgow universities and were specialists in EU law, public law and politics.
According to the academics interviewed, First Minister Alex Salmond is right when he claims that it’s Scotland’s pound as much as it is England’s, but that is only while Scotland is part of the UK.
Again, according to the professors, Alex Salmond is wrong when he claims sterling is an asset – it is an institution and will revert to the UK after independence.
Whether Scotland would be allowed to use the pound would be for the rest of the UK and the Treasury to determine. The professors said that any use of sterling by an independent Scotland would likely be along the lines of the model whereby Panama uses the US dollar but has no control over its interest rates or exchange rates. They considered that the Treasury would require Scotland to enter into a fiscal pact as well.
It was a relief to watch a question and answer session devoid of politics and the public deserve better than the Tweedledum and Tweedledumber panels with audiences of braying partisans.
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, stated in his Edinburgh speech yesterday that “a durable, successful currency union requires some ceding of national sovereignty”.
This careful statement acknowledges much more wriggle-room to meet the aspirations of the Scottish people than Better Together’s “can’t do” unionism.
But as Mark Carney knows, it is not for nothing that Scotland is the country of Adam Smith and David Hume.
Until now, Scottish public opinion has had to shift for itself: seeking someone to champion the majority’s long-established and clear preferred option of devo-plus or devo-max, within a vestigial Union.
Quite unexpectedly, it was the SNP’s intellectually modest but pragmatic white paper that met the challenge, devising an advance on devo-max, discreetly presented to the Scottish electorate as a negotiated conciliation between devolution and independence.
This is less surprising than it may first appear; when the Edinburgh Agreement was signed it was Alex Salmond, not Prime Minister David Cameron, who said: “We’re in the business of developing a new relationship between the peoples of these islands”, which Salmond went on to describe as a “Home Rule journey”.
These remarks could have been uttered by almost any non-ideological unionist over the last hundred years, but nobody noticed.
The most important feature of the white paper, however, is the implicit recognition by the SNP that the Scottish public is not interested in the constitution as a form of speculative metaphysics concerning the real nature of “independence”.
Unionists continually assert that the SNP is not offering “independence” at all; but the decisive answer to the question of whether the white paper’s devo-super-max is really “independence” is simple: who cares?
John S Warren
Dr JOHN Cameron (Letters, 29 January) and others are raising concerns about the use by an independent Scotland of the UK pound.
Older readers may recall something called the sterling area, a scheme by which sterling was used by many countries, both inside and outside of the British Empire.
When countries wanted to leave it, because the UK wanted to devalue against the US dollar, we thought it was yet another shameful sign of national decline. The English may still think this.
I hope an independent Scottish Government will have the freedom to choose which currency seems most suitable and be able to change it if necessary from time to time, perhaps with advice from investor George Soros. I have long had a fancy for the Norwegian krone.