The idea that Scotland should keep its options open on what currency to use after independence rather than deciding beforehand is “perfectly sensible”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister offered her backing to Alyn Smith, the SNP’s lead candidate at tomorrow’s European election, after he said he was “agnostic” about the question of currency.
Speaking during a live television debate, Mr Smith said he did not have a preference on whether an independent Scotland should continue to use the pound, introduce a new currency or adopt the euro.
He argued that the country would be able to decide for itself what to do “depending on what the circumstance is at the time” and what was best for the economy.
His comments appear to be at odds with the SNP’s official policy, as party members agreed at its conference last month to launch a new currency “as soon as practicable” after independence.
The decision formally scrapped the party’s previous policy of keeping the pound and seeking a currency union with the rest of the UK, which it adopted before 2014’s referendum.
Mr Smith said there had been a “lively debate” in the SNP about the issue but said he did not have a preference and favoured keeping the options open.
“We could keep sterling, we could keep sterling in a formal currency union, we could create an independent Scottish currency or we could join the euro and we can negotiate other options as well depending on what the circumstance is at the time,” he added.
“My preference is what’s best for the Scottish economy on the facts as they come.
“I’ve said I’m agnostic on the currency question, I think it’s about what matters best for economic stability of our country, for long term investment, people’s pensions, people’s homes – this is too important to just be a matter of ideology, this is about what works best.”
Asked about his comments at an SNP campaign visit in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP had “no policy of using the euro” and would keep the pound after an independence vote before seeking to move to a new currency.
But she added: “Alyn’s comments on currency are perfectly sensible. The point at the heart of those comments is that Scotland, like every other country, would have the currency arrangements that are best for the economy of the country. That’s what being independent allows you to do, rather than having policies whether it’s Brexit or anything else imposed on us by a Westminster Government.”
The Scottish Conservatives criticised Mr Smith’s stance, saying it was “unacceptable” not to hold a firm view on a matter of such importance to the country’s economy.