FMQs: Alex Salmond defends independence pound plan

ALEX Salmond repeatedly defended the SNP’s plan for a currency union between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK as he told MSPs that “it’s our pound and we’re keeping it” at First Minister’s Questions.

Alex Salmond was challenged on currency at First Minister's Questions. Picture: Neil Hanna
Alex Salmond was challenged on currency at First Minister's Questions. Picture: Neil Hanna

The First Minister insisted that the “sovereign will” of the Scottish electorate after a Yes vote would deliver a formal currency-sharing union that the UK government would have to accept.

The SNP leader came under pressure to state a Plan B for an independent Scotland’s currency from opposition leaders at Holyrood in the opening question session after parliament’s summer recess.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said that the “rest of the UK will have the sovereign right to say No” to the SNP’s plan to share the pound in a formal currency union if Scots vote for independence.

Ms Lamont called on Mr Salmond to set out his preferred alternative currency plan in detal, as she asked “don’t the people of Scotland deserve to know which one it will be?”

Mr Salmond said alternatives were outlined in the Scottish government’s white paper on independence - the nationalist blueprint for leaving the UK.

He added: “These are the euro, which we don’t support, a fixed or flexible exchange rate policy - perfectly viable but not as good as keeping Sterling.”

“Will she (Johann Lamont) not accept that the reason the white paper puts forward the view of keeping Sterling in a formal currency union is that it is best for Scotland, it is best for the United Kingdom?”

The Labour leader countered that the Prime Minister of the rest of the UK would have a “sovereign mandate” to say no to a formal currency union.

Ms Lamont said: “In the increasingly unlikely event that Scotland votes Yes, and in the likely event that the First Minister is unable to agree a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom, can the First Minister tell the people of Scotland, what is Plan B?”

The heated exchanges at Holyrood followed Tuesday’s television debate on the referendum, during which Better Together leader Alistair Darling challenged Mr Salmond on the currency issue.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said that “all the wishing in the world” will not lead to a currency union, as she highlighted the pledge by the main Unionist parties to block a formal arrangement.

Ms Davidson told Mr Salmond that keeping the pound within a formal union was “not in his gift” while Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he was not being fair to the people of Scotland.

However, Mr Salmond repeated the slogan five times of “it’s our pound and we’re keeping it” as he suggested the rest of the UK would be “lumbered” with all the debt of the Bank of England if it blocked the SNP’s currency union plans.

Mr Salmond said: “The reason we are keeping the pound in a currency union, and the reason we are so unambiguous about it, is because we are appealing to the greatest authority of all, that is the sovereign will of the people of Scotland.

“After a Yes vote in the referendum, I am sure that Johann Lamont will be among those who accept that sovereign will of the people of Scotland.

“It is Scotland’s pound. It doesn’t belong to George Osborne, it doesn’t belong to Ed Balls. It’s Scotland’s pound and we are keeping it.”