Scotland politics

Sturgeon says an independent Scotland would have worked with UK on RBS bailout

An independent Scotland would have worked with the UK government to save Royal Bank of Scotland from collapse, the deputy first minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that RBS did most of its business in England, and the two nations would have come together to save it.

The bank is 84% taxpayer-owned, after the UK government bailed it out as the global financial crisis hit.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland would always pay its way, if it became independent.

The deputy SNP leader was speaking as her party's spring conference got under way in Glasgow.

The Scottish government is seeking to hold its referendum on independence in autumn 2014.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland could have afforded to bail out RBS. She said the amount of money which had been put into Lloyd's and RBS stood at about £66bn at the end of last year, while Scotland's GDP stood at about £131bn in 2010.

She said one option on saving RBS in an independent Scotland may have been investing money from a Scottish oil fund.

Ms Sturgeon added: "In the real world, people come together to stabilise banks."

She said: "The fact of the matter is that RBS is a Scottish-headquartered bank - about 90% of its activity is in England."

RBS, Ms Sturgeon said, had also received cash help from institutions including the US Federal Reserve and the Australian Central Bank.

She added: "In reality, Scotland and England would have worked together with Scotland paying its full way to stabilise RBS.

"RBS was stabilised, not just because it was a Scottish bank, it was stabilised in order to stabilise the entire UK financial system."

She pointed out that the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg came together to save the Fortis Bank.

Backbench MSPs

On the issue of the referendum, Ms Sturgeon reiterated the Scottish government's current position that it remained open-minded on having a second question on the ballot paper, asking voters whether they supported more powers for the Scottish Parliament, short of independence.

Several backbench SNP MSPs, including Sandra White, Chic Brodie and John Wilson, have expressed to the BBC their preference for a single question.

Ms Sturgeon said she believed in independence, adding that she accepted there were a range of different views on the issue within the party.

The SNP government is currently running a consultation on the referendum.