17 Feb 2014

Salmond: Osborne’s independence ‘diktat has backfired’

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond says George Osborne’s “diktat”, rejecting a currency union with an independent Scotland, has backfired north of the border.

The Scottish National Party leader mounted a defence of plans for Scottish independence on Monday, after a week in which both EU and UK political leaders issued statements that were damaging to his cause.

On Sunday, Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the European Union if it gained independence from the rest of the UK – something the SNP rejected as “preposterous”.

Last week George Osborne said that “if Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound“.

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However, Mr Salmond used a speech in Aberdeen on Monday to hit back at this claim.

“Phone-ins, newspaper polls taken after the chancellor’s statement indicated his diktat had backfired badly,” the SNP leader said.

“People do become sick and tired of the succession of day-tripping Conservative ministers flying up to Scotland to deliver lectures and then flying back to Westminster again.”

He turned on Mr Osborne and said: “No one with a semblance of understanding of Scottish history and indeed the Scottish character would have made a speech such as the chancellor delivered last week. To be told that we have no rights to assets jointly built up is as insulting as it is demeaning.

“To be told there are things we can’t do will certainly elicit a Scottish response that is as resolute as it is uncomfortable to the No campaign – it is yes, we can.

“It is a sign of how out of touch and arrogant the Westminster establishment have become.”

Survey says…

A YouGov survey before Mr Salmond’s speech, but after last week’s statement from George Osborne, found a divide between England and Wales and Scotland over the issue of currency.

The survey asked: “If Scotland did become independent, would you support or oppose an independent Scotland continuing to use the pound as their currency?”

People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of Scotland being able to use the sterling. Two-thirds of people asked said they were in favour, compared to 22 per cent saying they were not, and 14 per cent saying they did not know.

However, south of the border the survey found people were against an independent Scotland keeping the pound. The survey showed that 58 per cent of people surveyed in England and Wales were against the idea, compared to 23 per cent in favour and 20 per cent who did not know.

The initial results from a Channel 4 News survey (see above) found that 83 per cent of people who said they are eligible to vote in the Scottish referendum would be in favour of Scotland keeping the British pound. Out of all respondents, however, the number in favour was lower – 57 per cent of the 250 respondents.

‘Bully Scotland’

Before the speech, Mr Salmond said: “The reality is the pound is as much Scotland’s as the rest of the UK.

“By suggesting otherwise, the Westminster establishment – Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – are reaping a backlash from the ordinary people of Scotland, who feel this is an attempt to bully Scotland ahead of the democratic choice we all look forward to this September.

“I will be deconstructing the Chancellor’s ill-thought-out and misinformed intervention point by point, making clear why a currency union not only favours Scotland but is in the clear economic interests of the UK as well.”

‘Plan B’

However, members of Scotland’s political opposition have suggested that Mr Salmond needs to tell people what his alternatives are, if an independent Scotland were not allowed to keep the pound.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “Instead of complaining about being told some home truths, Alex Salmond needs to tell Scotland what are his alternatives.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s almost like they’ve given up the ghost, and resorted to abusing anyone who questions their increasingly flimsy vision.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Not only does the SNP need a plan B on the pound but now they need a plan B for the EU.”

The unionist “Better Together” campaign is being led by Alistair Darling. He will be holding a discussion in Edinburgh on Monday.

Mr Darling said: “Alex Salmond is pretending the last week never happened. It is now simple fact that Scotland cannot keep the pound if we leave the UK. Alex Salmond has a responsibility to tell us what will replace the pound. Will we set up a separate unproven currency or will we be rushing to join the Euro?

“Alex Salmond was arguing against about a problem of his own making – the problem of transaction costs for business due to changing currency. Avoiding extra costs to business and not placing jobs at risk are powerful reasons why we should vote to remain in the UK and keep the pound.

“Leaving the UK and losing the pound will cost jobs, raise mortgage rates, increase credit card prices and make people’s weekly shop more expensive.”