Alistair Darling

What is Alex Salmond’s plan for the currency now?

What is Alex Salmond's plan for the currency now?
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Alex Salmond is now a man without a plan. He is offering Scots a future of uncertainty and instability. Threats of a debt default leaving Scotland and Scots with a bad credit rating. No idea which currency we would be transitioning to.

By contrast if Scots want to know the benefit of remaining in the UK, they need only reach into their pockets and pull out a pound coin. We have one of the most trusted, secure currencies in the world. We have the financial back up of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world. The pound means more jobs, smaller mortgage repayments, cheaper credit card bills and lower prices in the supermarket. Why would we gamble that for an unknown currency?

This morning’s interview with Alex Salmond on BBC Radio Scotland was instructive. Unable anymore to credibly claim that Scotland would keep the pound he kept falling back on the same statement: his fiscal commission set out “a range of options” for what currency Scotland would use. The penny has dropped for Alex Salmond – he knows he cannot promise the pound.

What a difference a day makes. 24 hours ago the SNP were saying that the fact that the UK parties had not ruled out the pound was proof that Scotland would keep the pound. Once the pound was comprehensively ruled out following advice from the Treasury’s top civil servant they claimed it was bluff. By this morning they were pointing out that there are a “range of options”.

What are the range of options? Another plan not on the table is using the pound anyway, in the way Panama uses the Dollar. The Fiscal Commission ruled out ‘the Panama plan’ and they were right to do so because it would mean leaving Scotland without a financial back-up plan. If something like the collapse of RBS happened again a crisis would become a disaster.

So Alex Salmond is offering us one of two options: a rush to join the Euro or a separate unproven currency. Of course until a very recently the Euro was Alex Salmond’s preferred option. We have seen almost nightly on the news what it can be like for a small country in the Euro. Establishing a separate, unproven currency would likely mean higher interest rates as we would be starting from scratch with no credit history. Both currency options would be bad for jobs as every time we sold to our biggest customer, England, Scottish firms would need to pay the costs of changing currency.

The SNP’s Fiscal Commission set out these options but only set out a plan for a currency union. Now that option is off the table there is no currency plan. Alex Salmond needs to get his Cabinet together urgently to prepare a new plan.

Of course this isn’t the first part of their White Paper that has fallen apart. A few days ago Scotland’s accountants were damning in their assessment that there was no plan for paying pensions. The SNP’s own expert group admitted there was no plan for paying benefits. This is too big a decision to make without having a real plan.

The referendum choice is clearer after the last 24 hours: a positive vote for the pound or take a gamble on the man without a plan.