Independence: SNP ‘bullied’ bosses over currency

Nationalist MSPs have been rebuked for their behaviour after “badgering” industry leaders at a Holyrood committee.

Picture: TSPL

At an ill-tempered meeting yesterday, SNP members were urged to apologise over claims they “bullied” and “shouted down” business leaders from the CBI and Institute of Directors.

SNP MSP Chic Brodie had to be told to stop “badgering” CBI director Iain McMillan at the economy committee, while deputy convener Mike MacKenzie was pulled up for accusing him of engaging in a “polemic” against independence.

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Committee convener Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP, accused the SNP members of “ganging up and mob rule”.

He added: “It was a disgraceful way for elected representatives to treat one of Scotland’s most prominent business leaders.”

The exchanges came at the start of a committee hearing into Scotland’s economic future, regardless of what happens after the referendum in September.

Business leaders warned that sharing the pound with the UK under a currency union may not be the best option for Scotland.

MSPs heard a separate Scottish currency may be a “simpler” approach, amid concerns that a Panama-style dollarisation could be emerging as the SNP’s Plan B.

The Scottish Government wants to keep the pound as part of a currency union after independence. This has been ruled out by Chancellor George Osborne and Labour and the Liberal Democrats – although an unnamed coalition minister claimed at the weekend that a currency union would happen.

Owen Kelly, from the financial services body Scottish Financial Enterprise, warned MSPs any currency union would hinge on the deal struck with the UK.

“We don’t know what the negotiations will throw up,” he said. “If you thought that the sterling currency union that emerged from some negotiation or process, if you thought that was unstable or the markets weren’t going to be particularly confident in it, then other options might be preferable.”

Nationalist MSP Joan McAlpine said Mr Kelly must “surely” know the option preferred by his members.

But he added: “Not really – I suspect from your question you’re anticipating an answer along the lines that I would like to keep sterling.

“Without knowing what the basis of that construction would be, it’s very difficult to say.”

He said the Scottish Government has “hinted” that the pound could be used in the way Panama uses the US dollar as its official currency.

“The other option would be creating a new currency, which is in a certain sense simpler because then you have a central bank and lender of last resort,” he said.

Labour and the Tories later criticised the SNP members of the committee.

Scottish Labour MSP Margaret McDougall said: “What we saw this morning was shocking.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone added: “MSPs should at least be trying to set an example to the cybernats who bring Scotland into disrepute.”