Salmond: 'Don't be ridiculous, George'

Scotland's first minister has given an impassioned speech claiming the British government is 'dictating from on high' about the pound. It could all be a moot point.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 27 Feb 2014

With more than six months to go until the vote, Scotland’s debate over whether or not to leave the UK is already erring on the happy side of dull – but this morning Scottish first minister nevertheless saw fit to ‘deconstruct’ George Osborne’s warning that if Scotland votes for independence, it won’t get to keep the pound. Osborne and his new friend Ed Balls are ‘dictating from on high’, he reckons.

In his speech to the Business for Scotland organisation in Aberdeen, Salmond said the British government’s determination to prevent an independent Scotland from using the pound would backfire because Scots feel bullied by the UK.

‘The pound is as much Scotland’s as the rest of the UK,’ he pointed out, adding that ‘to be told that we had no rights to assets jointly built up is as insulting as it is demeaning’.

You can understand Salmond’s point: the Yes campaign has been saying for months that it plans to use the pound if it votes for independence, and only now have Osborne and chums said they won’t allow it.

The Fiscal Commission Working Group has also done a report into the matter which shows, according to Salmond, that keeping the pound would be best for the whole of the UK. Not to have the pound would, he suggested, cost UK businesses ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’. It should be called the ‘George Tax’, he added.

‘No one doubts that Scotland can be a successful independent country. We are among the wealthiest nations in the OECD. For every one of the last 30 years we have generated more tax revenue per head than the UK overall. We have more top universities per head than any other generation,’ he said.

He added that, if Scotland doesn’t get the pound (and therefore a seat at the Bank of England’s table), there’s no legal reason Scotland should have a share of UK national debt. Good luck coping with RBS by yourself, then, mate…

This could all be a moot point if the EU question isn’t addressed. On Sunday, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso pointed out that it would be ‘difficult, if not impossible’ for Scotland to join the EU, mainly because other countries (namely Spain) have a nasty habit of vetoing new members.

‘It would be extremely difficult to get approval of all the other states to have a new member coming from one member state,’ he told the Andrew Marr show. ‘We have seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance. [Scotland] is to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.’

Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon hit back: ‘it would also be against the founding principles of the European Union because we would effectively be punished for exercising our democratic right to self-determination,’ she said. Which rather indicates that Scotland will be keen to join the EU, should it vote for independence.

The elephant in the room is the euro: even if Scotland did get into the EU, the likelihood is that it would eventually have to adopt the single currency (and, if you’re po-faced about it, the various bank bailouts associated with it), thereby rendering the ‘pound or not to pound’ question irrelevant. And if that happened, Scotland would be jumping out of the United Kingdom pan, into the European Union fire. Not exactly the independent Scotland Salmond had planned, is it…

- Editor's blog: Just can't let you go

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