‘No camp struck by demolition blow on currency’

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture:  Neil Hanna
First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE campaign against independence has suffered a “demolition” blow following a UK minister’s suggestion the pound would be shared in the event of a Yes vote, according to First Minister Alex Salmond.

A tranche of senior UK ministers yesterday lined up to insist there would be no currency union post-independence after the comments made by an unnamed minister came to light at the weekend.

Picture: HeMedia

Picture: HeMedia

The comments also prompted Alistair Darling, who heads the Better Together group, to stress a shared pound “wouldn’t happen, no matter what anonymous quotes people read”.

But the First Minister said the No campaign’s stance on sterling “is a campaign tactic, a negotiating position, something to scare the natives up in Scotland”.

Mr Salmond said: “It has been a very difficult 48 hours for the No campaign and it’s going to get a lot worse because they are not basing their arguments on a positive vision of the future.

“They have based their arguments on whatever they can say or do to try and intimidate the people of Scotland and their bluff is being called. It seems to me the story is a very important demolition of the No campaign.”

The SNP government wants to keep the pound as part of a currency union with the rest of the UK after a Yes vote, but this has been ruled out by Chancellor George Osborne and the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

Mr Salmond’s comments came as Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, a key figure in the pro-Union campaign, said the No camp needed to do more and match the nationalists’ “hunger” for victory.

The Liberal Democrat MP warned Scotland could end up voting for independence because those in favour of remaining part of the UK could leave it too late to make their voices heard. Mr Carmichael said: “Everybody needs to know that this is a serious contest, and one which it is not impossible that the nationalists could win.”

Mr Carmichael called for a wider range of voices from Ed Miliband’s Labour Party to join the debate. “You have in Alistair Darling a first-rate campaign head, but I would want to hear and would expect to hear a wider range of Labour voices coming into the debate as it gets closer to polling day,” he said.

Speaking at the Scottish Lib Dems’ spring conference in Aberdeen, Mr Carmichael said the First Minister’s comments on currency were “entirely predictable”.

He said: “I think most fair-minded observers will say on the one hand you have got an anonymous source speaking off the record, on the other hand, you have got the Governor of the Bank of England, and the very detailed advice of the permanent secretary to the Treasury to the Chancellor saying this is something we would not advise you to be part of.

“There is no bluff, there is no bluster, there is no bullying.”

An unnamed minister was quoted at the weekend of saying there would be an agreement on the pound, indicating that a deal could be done in exchange for the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet remaining at Faslane on the Clyde.

“The UK wants to keep Trident nuclear weapons at Faslane and the Scottish Government wants a currency union – you can see the outlines of a deal,” the minister said.

But Mr Salmond said negotiations on the pound would not include Trident, to which he said the SNP was “unambiguously opposed”.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged that Trident would be part of any post-independence talks but currency union was off the table.

He said currency union “is not just another item that could be negotiated because there are clear economic reasons why that would not work”.

In further signs of unrest within the Better Together camp, Labour’s Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty said there were still “too many MPs, MSPs and councillors not pulling their weight”. He said: “It is not that they are averse to campaigning with other parties - they are just averse to campaigning. Bluntly, there has been a staggering level of complacency in parts of Scotland towards the campaign for 18 months.”

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