Independent Scotland ‘should have own currency’

LABOUR leader Johann Lamont has said that the “only logical place to go” for a currency option in an independent Scotland would be to have a separate Scottish currency. in a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).

Scotish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont MSP addresses the STUC in Dundee. Picture: Louis Flood

Ms Lamont stated that Alex Salmond’s plan for a sterling zone after a Yes vote with the rest of the UK would mean key economic decisions about Scotland were made by the UK government and the Bank of England in what would be a “foreign” country.

The Labour leader insisted that she was “not arguing for independence” during a question and answer session after her speech to the STUC in Dundee, but stated that the position did not sense from a nationalist point of view.

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Mr Salmond has refused to set out a Plan B for currency in an independent Scotland despite Chancellor George Osborne and the main Unionist parties ruling out a sterling zone in the event of a Yes vote on 18 September.

Ms Lamont, was asked by STUC general secretary Grahame Smith whether a separate currency would be the best option for an independent Scotland.

She said: “It seems the only logical place to go.

“If I ever got to a place where I thought Scotland should be independent, I can’t for the life of me think why I would want to go into a currency union where a foreign country, a foreign chancellor, [who] then determined my monetary policy, my interest rates, my public spending, which would be the price that would be paid to be part of the currency union - we know that from the eurozone,” she told the STUC.

“If I were an advocate of independence, and I believed that we could achieve social justice better within Scotland than across the United Kingdom, I would resist a currency union where economic policy would be determined in a treasury run in a place where there is no Scottish representation - it doesn’t make any sense for Scotland, never mind the rest of the United Kingdom.

“I am troubled that in some of this debate - and I’m sure people who themselves are in favour of independence are troubled by this - almost what we’ve got to is a place where there is an assessment of what people like about the United Kingdom, and we can keep all of that, and there’s an assessment of what we don’t like, and we can lose that.

“A lot of the argument around independence is predicated on the idea that the rest of the UK has denied us the opportunity to achieve our potential. At worst, have done us down and denied us our rights.

“If that is the case, why, the day after independence has been won in a referendum, would those self-same people put themselves in a place where they would want to co-operate with us?”

She added: “Fundamentally for me, if I want to be in an independent country, I really think I’d like to have control of the fundamental levers you need to address economic change in Scotland.”

Ms Lamont also told the STUC that a Labour government at Holyrood would use new powers the party plans to devolve in the event of a No vote to “reverse the tax cuts to millionaires” made by Chancellor George Osborne.

Scottish Labour last month set out plans to pursue the redistribution of wealth as part of a package of reforms that would see the bulk of powers over income tax devolved to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.

The Labour leader, speaking during the question and answer session today, stated that her party now had the opportunity to “win the political argument” in favour of a fairer tax system.

She said: “Some people brought this argument that it’s possible to have the highest quality public services and low tax.

“But we could reverse the tax cuts to millionaires from Osborne’s budget for example.”

Ms Lamont used her speech to the STUC to contrast Labour’s tax plans to those of Alex Salmond, who has backed corporation tax cuts in an independent Scotland.

She said: “After all it was a Holyrood government which handed £1.2 million of our money to a debt collection agency to expand its operations, and that’s not my idea of a fairer Scotland,” she said.

“It was a Holyrood government which has pledged to cut taxes for big business and millionaires while stripping £1 billion out of anti-poverty projects. That’s not my idea of a fairer Scotland.

“Alex Salmond is proof that just because Scots make decisions, they are not necessarily more fair or just.”

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing stated that an a “shared sterling area is best for an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK “.She said: “If we achieve a Yes vote in September, we look forward to the election campaign for an independent Parliament in May 2016, when we will support keeping the pound in the continued currency union - just as Germany and Austria use the same currency - and Labour will be campaigning for a separate Scottish currency.”