Salmond: denying Scotland pound would hurt businesses

Published on Monday, 17 February 2014 13:03
Written by Daniel Mason

Denying an independent Scotland the right to use the pound as its currency would place a financial burden on businesses across the rest of the United Kingdom, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond warned in a speech today.

Salmond used the address to a conference in Aberdeen to describe chancellor George Osborne's move to rule out a currency union as "insulting and demeaning" and dismissed it as "not an economic assessment but a campaign tactic".

Osborne said last week that if it chose independence in September's referendum, Scotland would be walking away from the pound and the creation of a new sterling zone was "not going to happen". Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour said they supported that position.

But Salmond claimed that if Scotland were not allowed to share the currency it would mean businesses in the rest of the UK facing "hundreds of millions of pounds" in transaction costs to operate across the border. "My submission is that this charge – let us call it the George tax – would be impossible to sell to English businesses," the Scottish National Party leader said.

He also criticised what he called the "deconstructive campaign style" of those arguing against independence. "No one with a semblance of understanding of Scottish history and the Scottish character would have made a speech such as that," he said of Osborne. "To be told that we had no rights to assets jointly built up is as insulting as it is demeaning."

Salmond said Westminster was "out of touch and arrogant" and Osborne's intervention had already "backfired badly". He added: "People are becoming sick and tired of a succession of day-tripping Conservative ministers flying up to Scotland to deliver lectures before flying back to Westminster again."

Turning to comments made at the weekend by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso – who said an independent Scotland would find it "extremely difficult, if not impossible" to join the EU because all 28 member states would have to agree – Salmond claimed the bloc would find a "pragmatic way to accommodate the expression of democratic will" of the Scottish people.

Not allowing Scotland to become an EU member would "run counter to the entire European ideal of democratic express and inclusion" and "pose a challenge to the integrity of the European Union even greater and more fundamental than the threat of British withdrawal. That's why no member states has suggested that it would seek to block Scottish membership."

Salmond said he believed a "positive campaign" would "always win out over a negative campaign" and that "attempts to dictate from on high the terms of the debate underrate the strength of the democratic process".

In a statement published yesterday Alistair Darling, the Labour politician leading the Better Together campaign, said Salmond was "a man without a plan on currency and Europe".

"On the two biggest issues for jobs and businesses in Scotland, currency and Europe, the nationalists are all over the place. We are being asked to take a huge leap into the unknown. When Alex Salmond is told Scotland won't keep the pound, he says everybody is bluffing and only he is right.

"When the president of the European Commission says there would be huge difficulties with EU membership, nationalists say he is talking nonsense. It isn't credible."

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