Darling in firing line over UK civil servant link

Alistair Darling has denied 'running the show' at the Treasury in its opposition to a currency union. Picture: Hemedia
Alistair Darling has denied 'running the show' at the Treasury in its opposition to a currency union. Picture: Hemedia
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SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Former Chancellor Alistair Darling has come under pressure over his relationship with a top UK civil servant who advised against a currency union with Scotland after independence.

He was questioned over his links to Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson, whom he worked with during Labour’s 13 years in government, at Holyrood’s economy committee yesterday.

But he refused to say if he had discussed a currency union with the mandarin, insisting these were “private conversations”.

Yes Scotland has attacked the “suspicious” co-ordination of the UK Treasury, Labour and Better Together in attacking the Scottish Government’s plan to keep the pound.

Mr Darling confirmed that he met Sir Nicholas socially as recently as March, a month after the civil servant publicly advised against a currency union, but refused to reveal what was discussed.

“I know Nick Macpherson and I saw him nearly every day of my life for three years during some quite interesting times,” Mr Darling said.

“In terms of Better Together, in terms of the contact we have with the UK government, that is done through political channels and not through the civil service.

“I discuss many things, I’m not going to go into private conversations with him or anybody else for that matter. What I can tell you is in relation to whatever advice he happened to give to the current government, I’ve not discussed that, no.”

Sir Nicholas has said that Chancellor George Osborne first saw his advice “a couple of days or 24 hours before”, in evidence to the Commons public administration select committee last month. Mr Osborne ruled out a currency union in March, controversially publishing Sir Nicholas’s advice in a break from the civil service’s convention of confidentiality.

Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall told the committee that he had been informed of the Treasury’s currency decision “a matter of days before it happened”.

He added this was not about “whether the decision should be made but that a decision was coming”.


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