It is not every day that you hear the British finance minister George Osborne talking up currency union. Yet that is indeed what he and other pro-union UK government ministers are doing when they charge that Scotland’s best chances of keeping the pound sterling are to remain within the United Kingdom and vote “no” to independence in September.
Furthermore, with remarks from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso this month that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the single market, thrown back by Scottish officials it makes you wonder. See HERE
Even the supposedly non-partisan civil servant, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney – ok the central bank is independent since 1997, to a point – has waded into the debate. Not that he truly could have avoided the questions flying. He too has doubted Scotland’s ability to retain the pound in a super-sterling bloc.
Either way, it all looks like ganging up and trying to gag debate. A people’s vote, from decade to decade, is a healthy thing. Scotland last had a proper vote to break away in 1978. Even in these austere times but with a new world order, it is right that we give people a say in their destiny. For Scottish First Minister and SNP veteran Alex Salmond it is also the culmination of a political ambition spanning decades.
Electors in Scotland – and elsewhere in the UK too – deserve a healthy debate – and one which should have started years ago rather than months before a plebiscite.
Much is at stake, and it is not a foregone conclusion that Scottish separation is wise. It has implications for Edinburgh, London and the rest of Europe.
Salmond says that breaking Scotland out of the pound will result in transactional costs for cross-border trade of GBP500m a year. Westminster politicians simply say avoid the costs by voting against separatism.
Of course, it could all get the backs up of the Scots. They might well feel resentful of scaremongering – even if the recent Westminster or Brussels views ring true. It could well play into a “yes” vote for independence by Scotland.
Is there also an air of hypocrisy that Britain, one of the self-currency standard bearers of the EU, lectures to Scotland about currency union? Britain joined the EU in 1973, accepted the single market in 1992, kept the currency after the euro’s introduction in 1999 and now brags how well it did to avoid the debt disaster in Europe.
Yet, London now wants Edinburgh to lose currency union if there is regional divorce. Otherwise, London thinks a currency union is ok. Go figure.
If British premier David Cameron will be allowed to keep his word after the next General Election and introduce a UK referendum on membership of the EU the island may yet find itself isolated if the nation decides “out” of Brussels meddling. In that case, the irony could be that London will need all the friends it can find outside of the EU, and then retaining Scotland in sterling could become a popular policy again. But by then Scotland may have been forced to replace sterling with the Scottie and the penny with the pict.
* A YouGov poll this month for LBC Radio found that Conservative supporters would be ready to back a Tory-UKIP coalition in 2015. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has indicated a willingness to form government with either Labour or the Conservatives if with main party promises a referendum on EU membership.