Leaders: Currency union deserves equal response

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Picture: PA
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Picture: PA
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IT IS one thing to demand an answer from someone; it is quite another to receive an answer you do not want to hear.This is the position in which Alex Salmond finds himself, as he awaits a speech in Edinburgh by the Chancellor, George Osborne, on the possibility of a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Last year, the First Minister demanded that the UK government open negotiations with the Scottish Government on what would happen after a Yes vote. When no positive response was immediately forthcoming, he criticised UK ministers for failing to give Scottish voters the information they needed to make an informed judgment.

Well, Mr Salmond will have his answer in one area today. But it is not what he wanted to hear. It is understood Mr Osborne will rule out a formal currency union between the rest of the UK (rUK) and an independent Scotland.

That Mr Osborne has been willing to clarify his position is welcome. So, too, is the expected clarification from Ed Balls and Danny Alexander, the Treasury spokesmen for Labour and the Lib Dems. Scottish voters will now have a much clearer picture of where everyone stands on this key issue. These would be the opening positions in post-Yes negotiations.

It is unfortunate that the SNP, in the form of Nicola Sturgeon, has chosen to use such aggressive language in response to the Treasury making its position known. Is this really “bullying”, as she suggests, or is it a simple declaration of the rUK’s likely position of self-interest?

Mr Osborne’s straight answer to the straight question “what will you do?” requires an equally straight answer from the Scottish Government. It is not sufficient for the SNP to say, “they’re bluffing, trust us, it’ll all be fine”. It is beholden on Mr Salmond to take Mr Osborne’s comments at face value, and to explain what an independent Scotland would do in the event of the Treasury ruling out a formal currency union.

So, what is Mr Salmond’s Plan B? Will an independent Scotland just use the pound without a formal say in sterling zone macro-economic policy? Will Scotland move towards its own currency? Or will the SNP go back to its position of just a few years ago and embrace the euro?

Where the SNP may be on stronger ground is its claim that the pound is a UK asset that must be divided – or shared – after independence. But if the rUK disagrees, how would this dispute be settled? Who would hold the jackets and adjudicate?

Scottish voters also deserve clarity on Mr Salmond’s warning – repeated yesterday by Ms Sturgeon – that an independent Scotland would refuse to pay its share of UK debt if denied entry into a currency union. It is hard to characterise this as anything other than a threat. The stakes in Scotland’s independence referendum just got higher.

Trump must apologise for crass comment

PERHAPS having a 58-storey skyscraper on New York’s Fifth Avenue with your name on it does something to one’s sense of proportion.

How else can we explain Donald Trump’s outburst yesterday, saying the wind farm revolution would be a disaster for Scotland comparable to “Pan Am 103”.

This was the call sign of the Boeing 747 that blew up in the skies over Lockerbie in December 1988, with the loss of 270 lives.

Mr Trump’s comment was in more than just poor taste. It was an appalling lapse of judgment. It was insensitive and it was crass. Mr Trump deserves all the international condemnation and opprobrium this outburst brings.

It should go without saying – but in Mr Trump’s case probably needs spelled out – that he should withdraw his comment immediately and apologise not just to the people of Lockerbie but also to the relatives of the victims of that terrible night, very many of them Mr Trump’s fellow Americans.

That he felt able to make such a comment is an indication of how skewed his reasoning has become when it comes to the wind farm project off the Aberdeenshire coast that he claims will ruin his golf resort on the Menie estate. Mr Trump’s behaviour on this issue is entirely out of proportion.

In a leader column yesterday, this newspaper said Mr Trump had all but squandered what goodwill he had in this country. After these comments, what little goodwill that was left may now have disappeared.

The decent thing to do would be for Mr Trump to find within himself a sliver of humility and a modicum of humanity, and to make good this wrong.

Perhaps we should not hold our breath.