Scotland politics

Scottish Independence: TV clash over Scotland's future

Nationalists and Unionists have clashed over Europe in a televised BBC debate on Scotland's future.

The SNP's deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon insisted an independent Scotland would automatically gain EU membership.

But she said it would not have to adopt the euro as its currency.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson produced a letter from the European Commission that she said showed the SNP had never asked it what status an independent Scotland would have.

Ms Davidson said: "The fundamental question that the SNP haven't answered when it comes to Europe is that they don't accept, or won't admit, that a separate Scottish state would have to apply to join the EU.

"One of the rules for applying to join the EU is that you have to adopt the euro. That is the law, so it may not be within the choice of an independent Scotland.

"Fundamentally the assertions that are coming from the SNP are based on nothing more than wishful thinking, and that is not enough to have people voting on the most important decision that they are going to make in their lifetime."

Ms Sturgeon said an independent Scotland would automatically be in Europe but would not need to use the euro.

This was the clear legal opinion of former judges in the European Court and former senior officials in the European Commission, she added.

Ms Sturgeon asserted that retaining Sterling would bring advantages to Scotland in terms of price stability, while independence would provide "meaningful fiscal levers" to get the Scottish economy growing.

And she said Scotland's oil and gas exports halved the UK's balance of payments deficit, meaning "no UK government in its right mind would turn Scotland away" from keeping the pound.

Ms Sturgeon added: "There is nothing that would compel an independent Scotland within the European Union to go into the euro.

"The key lesson (of the eurozone crisis) if you can't have a successful monetary union when you've got wildly divergent economies like the richest parts of Germany and the poorest parts of Greece.

"That is not the case across the countries of the UK, where productivity levels, for example, are very similar and (Stirling University economist) Professor David Bell recently described it as an optimal currency union."

Anas Sarwar, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, accused the SNP of changing its mind on the euro - leading Ms Sturgeon to point out that former Labour prime minister Tony Blair had also once wanted to join the eurozone.

'Independent currency'

Mr Sarwar added: "I'm not going to try and make some comparison between Greece and Scotland, because I don't believe we would be in that situation.

"But actually there's one lesson from the eurozone crisis - you can't have a monetary union without a fiscal and a political union.

"The policy of the Bank of England is set by the Treasury, the money is from the Treasury and the Bank of England governor is appointed by the UK government."

The fourth member of the debate's panel was the Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, whose party backs independence.

Mr Harvie said a "wee bit of realism" was needed on the European question given the uncertainty which currently surrounds both the euro and the EU.

He added: "There are problems with a currency union without a political union, and even although Scotland and the rest of the UK are closer together in terms of their economy at the moment, in reality if we were independent they would diverge.

"If the SNP want to make a case that we should stay in Sterling and that Sterling should become a multi-state currency zone, I think we need attached to that some kind of timescale that would move us away from that.

"It might take 10 years, but I think we should be willing to talk about whether Scotland as an independent country can have an independent currency as well."

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