Leaders: Voters need all the facts to make an informed choice
IT IS ironic that the Bank of England, which has become embroiled in the debate over independence, was founded by a Scot, William Paterson, who established it more than a decade before the Act of Union as the government’s banker and debt manager, a role it retains to this day.
Crucial to these duties is also the maintenance of the pound sterling, which the First Minister and the Scottish National Party propose to retain as the currency of an independent Scotland should they win the vote on separation from the United Kingdom in 2014.
However, this plan – which was announced by the finance secretary John Swinney as a way of freeing the party from its previous and, in the current circumstance, obviously untenable, policy of favouring an early referendum on joining the euro – sparked heated debate at Holyrood.
Pressed by Labour leader Johann Lamont on the claim by deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that an independent Scotland would be represented on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Mr Salmond was unable to provide solid grounds for the assertion.
All he could say was that it would be “entirely reasonable” for a separate Scotland to have influence over the MPC. But such optimism was dismissed shortly after it was stated in parliament, as the UK Treasury firmly declared that Scotland, were she to become independent, would have no such representation, a position former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson echoed yesterday.
The SNP has, of course, tried to brush off such interventions, suggesting they are politically motivated and sticking to its assertion that Scotland would have a say over the monetary policy of the sterling currency union it chose to be part of.
However, the problem for Mr Salmond is that, although these claims may well be politically inspired, they go beyond that to one of the fundamental aspects of nationhood – the control and governance of a currency.
The SNP’s response has, so far, been weak. Mr Salmond has told us he has met Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank, but not whether they discussed the issue of the currency.
As a result, he has been made to look as if he relies on assertion – if I say a thing it will be so – rather than fact.
Even Nationalist supporters are not exactly flocking to help the First Minister. Sir George Mathewson, who backs independence, would yesterday say only that Scotland would have “a degree” of influence over the MPC.
There is a long way to go in this debate, but this week demonstrates that some of the SNP’s key policies have not properly been developed or explained to the public, who will make a decision in the referendum.
It is unreasonable of Mr Salmond to expect voters to make an informed decision on this vital issue without knowing the full facts.
60 years of dedicated service
The place of a hereditary monarchy in a 21st-century democracy is a debate that can divide many Scots, with high passion on both sides.
As we reported earlier this week, there will be fewer street parties to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Scotland than there will be south of the Border, but that may be down to how we prefer to celebrate, rather than be ascribed solely to republican tendencies.
Yet as the UK embarks on four days of ceremony and celebrations of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, it would be sad, not to say churlish, if we were to continue to focus on the debate over the place of the monarchy in society, at the expense of remembering what it is we are being asked to remember.
It is simply this: Queen Elizabeth is a unique monarch. She has reigned from the period immediately following the Second World War and has given counsel to prime minsters from Winston Churchill to David Cameron.
As a constitutional monarch, she has very limited powers, but she has been the non-political figurehead for the country though many difficult times, working tirelessly for many good causes, providing stability and continuity over six decades in which the United Kingdom has changed beyond imagination.
During that time, she has also overseen the transformation of the Commonwealth, as it threw off its colonial past to become a international organisation based on shared history and values.
The jubilee is about one person, so let us celebrate 60 years of dedicated service to this country by a remarkable woman.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west