Carmichael: No currency plan B could equal No vote

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael has suggested nationalists will blame a defeat for independence on Alex Salmond’s refusal to set out a Plan B on currency if there is a No vote next month.

Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael believes STV debate weakened Alex Salmond. Picture: Jane Barlow

The UK cabinet minister said pledges last week from the main Unionist parties to fight next year’s General Election on a commitment to block a currency union was the moment when the “tools really sharpened” to oppose Mr Salmond vision for sharing sterling.

Mr Carmichael also said that Mr Salmond had been weakened after his performance in the recent STV debate against Alistair Darling, who the First Minister was widely viewed to have struggled against in the televised clash.

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The Lib Dem minister suggested Mr Salmond would face recriminations within the SNP’s ranks over his refusal to set out an alternative currency for an independent Scotland after the main Unionist parties stated they would not sign up to it.

Mr Carmichael, speaking after to a visit to Codebase - the largest technology incubator in Scotland - in Edinburgh today, also said the SNP’s failure to state a Plan B was damaging the quality of debate in the referendum.

He said: “The fact that the nationalists are not able to come up with a Plan B fundamentally undermines their case.

“This is a once in a lifetime debate and is important that everyone feels they’ve had a comprehensive and vigorous analysis of the issues.

“The refusal of the nationalists to come up with an alternative does the whole exercise a disservice.

“If Scotland’s voters say No will there be a residual debate that there could have been a different result if they (the SNP) had the self confidence to offer a proper prospectus on independence.

“If I was in Alex Salmond’s position, I’d want the best possible quality debate.”

Mr Carmichael said Mr Salmond’s performance during the STV debate and the hardening of the Unionist parties position in ruling out a formal currency union has damaged the Yes campaign.

He said: “Last week was the point when we saw the tools really sharpened and that weakens the case for independence.

“We’re at the point where people are making up their minds and it’s unhelpful to the Yes campaign that they can’t answer basic questions.

“Don’t write off Alex Salmond. He’s been a feature of Scottish politics for 30 years and is still a very capable politician.

“A lot of people have seen him in a different light in the last few days, but perceptions can change in the course of a campaign.”

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “For Alistair Carmichael to take people’s votes for granted is very arrogant and extremely foolish - particularly when the latest TNS poll puts Yes at a new high.

“The fatal flaw of the No campaign is that they have no Plan A - no agreement, no detail, no timescale as to what Scotland would get on the back of a No vote - and more voices are speaking up at Westminster against Scotland getting any new powers. A Yes vote is our one opportunity to protect the NHS from Westminster privatisation, create more jobs, and revolutionise childcare instead of wasting billions of pounds of Scottish taxpayers’ money on nuclear weapons.”