Nicola Sturgeon has been criticsed for failing to recall her party’s six tests for introducing a new Scottish currency yesterday as she launched a government plan to increase exports over the next decade.
The First Minister came under pressure to list the economic tests the SNP’s Growth Commission had said are vital to meet before a new currency could be introduced in an independent Scotland.
Currency was debated at length at her party’s conference last weekend with SNP members ultimately backing a plan which would see the Pound dropped “as soon as practicable” after independence.
However when asked to list the tests Ms Sturgeon said: “The six tests are about having the infrastructure in place, the central bank, having a sufficiency of reserves to support a currency. Tests around where the Scottish business and economic cycle fits with the UK economic cycle. It’s about the overall interests of the economy, businesses, investors, traders. And about the Scottish Parliament deciding that the right conditions had been met.”
However there is no requirement in the Growth Commission’s test for the Scottish Parliament to decide “conditions had been met” and the First Minister did not mention fiscal sustainability and the financial requirements of Scottish people and businesses.
Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “If Nicola Sturgeon can’t remember the SNP’s currency plans, what chance does anyone else have? This exposes the fact that the SNP doesn’t care about the detail – it wants to force independence through whatever the cost.”
Labour’s finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP added: “Nicola Sturgeon said the country can ‘move forward now with confidence’ in her currency plan. It hardly inspires confidence when she doesn’t know the tests she would use to judge her policy as ‘safe’ to introduce.” But a spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon said: “The First Minister knows the six tests and gave a summary of them. The Tories’ Brexit shambles threatens to cost families and business across Scotland – which is why they are running scared as support for independence continues to rise.”
Ms Sturgeon was asked about the currency tests after she announced a new £20m Trading Nation strategy to increase Scottish exports to the level where they account for a quarter of Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product over the coming decade, creating 17,500 jobs and increasing Scotland’s tax take by an estimated £500m a year. The £20m would be spent on trebling the number of trade envoys from four to 12 and helping companies grow existing exports and enter new markets.
She said: “The target that we have adopted of exports accounting for 25 per cent of our GDP in 10 years time is both important and also ambitious. Exports have hovered around the 20 per cent mark for almost the entire 20 years of devolution so getting to that 25 per cent and staying there - or progressing further - would be a big change.”
Responding to the announcement, CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said Scotland had not kept pace with the progress made by other similar sized countries. Exporting companies are more competitive, innovative and, crucially, more productive.”