Scottish independence: Salmond says UK should share currency

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond says a shared Sterling currency is the best option for both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Scotland's first minister has said a shared currency after independence would be the best option for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Alex Salmond said a range of options on the currency had been set out by his expert panel but a shared Sterling union was the one it recommended.

He said if the UK claimed ownership of the currency it would also be liable for Scotland's share of national debt.

UK Chancellor George Osborne again said a currency union would not happen.

Mr Osborne appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show along with the Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls who has agreed with the Tory chancellor that a currency union would not be negotiated should Scotland vote for independence in September's referendum.

After the programme, Mr Salmond's party, the SNP, said there were "questions for the BBC to answer" over remarks made by the presenter about Scottish membership of the EU.

Mr Salmond was asked about comments by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who previously said it would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible" for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

After Mr Salmond responded to the question, Andrew Marr said: "I think it would be quite hard to get back in, I have to say."

The SNP said Mr Marr's comments appeared to be outside the BBC's editorial guidelines, but the first minister's spokesman said Mr Salmond did not intend to make an official complaint.

The BBC said Mr Marr had not been intending to express a personal opinion, and its coverage of the referendum debate had been "fair and balanced".

'Man without a plan'

Mr Osborne told the programme: "It is of course for the people of Scotland to make their own decision and neither Ed [Balls] nor I are going to have a vote in this referendum but I think it is important that people go into this referendum knowing the facts.

"And the truth is the Labour party and the Conservative party, and therefore any combination of government you can think of in Westminster, has taken the view that we can't share the pound, that it wouldn't work, it wouldn't be in the interest of Scotland, it wouldn't be in the interest of the rest of the UK.

"And so if you walk away from the UK you walk away from the pound and that leaves Alex Salmond as a man without a plan."

Ed Balls and George Osborne Ed Balls and George Osborne both said the currency would not be shared

Mr Balls said it would be the "Europe crisis in spades" to try to keep the currency "while breaking up all the other different bonds".

He added: "George and I disagree on the bedroom tax, I want to get it abolished, I want a jobs guarantee, I want the 50p tax rate back. But on the issue of the pound I have to say I really do think Alex Salmond is painting a false prospectus and I think it is important that we all call him out on that."

National debt

Mr Salmond told the Marr programme that people could see through the "bluff and bluster" of Mr Osborne and Mr Balls and that they would negotiate a currency union with Scotland.

Scotland's independence referendum

Who? Voters in Scotland will go to the polls to vote on their country's future.

What? They will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

When? The vote takes place on Thursday, 18 September, 2014.

The first minister said not sharing the pound would cost the rest of the UK more than it would cost Scotland.

He said the transaction costs for UK business if Scotland had a separate currency could be about £500m a year.

Mr Salmond also said: "If you claim ownership of all the assets of the United Kingdom, like the Bank of England and the currency, then you end up with all the liabilities - that includes £100bn which would otherwise be Scotland's share of the national debt.

"That's why it is bluff and bluster and that's why people will see through it."

Voters in Scotland go to the polls on 18 September when they will be asked the "Yes/No" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

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Marr/Salmond exchange

Alex Salmond challenges Andrew Marr: "This is, what, the Andrew Marr analysis?"

Earlier in the programme, Mr Salmond was asked about Mr Barroso's recent remarks on Scottish membership of the EU. Here is a full transcript of the exchange:

Andrew Marr: "I think it would be quite hard to get back in, I have to say, but let's move on to the other big question we've had this week - Theresa May…"

Alex Salmond: "Sorry, can I just examine that for a second, Andrew?"

Marr: "Yes, of course."

Salmond: "This is what, the Andrew Marr analysis as opposed to…[inaudible]…

Marr: "Having talked to Mr Barroso, which I think you haven't."

Salmond: "As opposed, Andrew, to the weight of evidence that's being presented to the Scottish Parliament's committees at the present moment - but, I don't know, is that an individual expression or is that the expression of the BBC?"

Marr: "No, it's not, I've got no views on this, nor does the BBC. I was simply reflecting on what Mr Barroso told us."

Salmond: "Well you just said what your opinion was."

Marr: "I said I think it will be quite difficult, having talked to Mr Barroso... currently the president of the European Commission."

Salmond: "Andrew, I thought you were asking questions but anyway I mistook you there, I thought you were giving your opinion, as opposed to President Barroso's opinion."

Stewart Maxwell MSP, convener of the Scottish Parliament's culture committee, said the Scottish Parliament had heard a number of "incredibly eminent witnesses" explain how and why Scotland would continue as a member of the EU on independence.

Start Quote

Though the specific comment made was surprising, the first minister responded at the time and we do not intend to complain about a programme we were represented on”

End Quote Alex Salmond's spokesman

"That appears to have been ignored by the Andrew Marr programme in favour of an opinion from the president of the Commission that has been roundly rejected by EU experts," he said.

He went on: "There are questions for the BBC to answer over their coverage of this issue.

"Firstly, they failed to press President Barroso about his comparison of Scotland - which has been part of the EU for over 40 years - with Kosovo. And now a presenter offers what appears to be a personal view on an independent Scotland's EU membership.

"The comments from Andrew Marr appear to be outside the BBC's editorial guidelines, and no amount of backtracking can change that."

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "Though the specific comment made was surprising, the first minister responded at the time and we do not intend to complain about a programme we were represented on.

"The BBC face a more generic issue in relation to referendum coverage that has been highlighted by independent academic research and it is for the BBC to explain their overall approach."

A BBC spokesman said: "Andrew himself made it clear on air that he had not been intending to express a personal opinion, or that of the BBC, but was simply putting forward an argument from President Barroso who, as European Commission president, has an integral insight within the debate.

"The BBC's coverage of the Scottish referendum debate has been fair and balanced and we will continue to report on the story without fear or favour."

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