Guardian | Should Scotland have its own currency? Our panel's verdict
George Osborne has said the UK may not share the pound with an independent Scotland. Our panel discuss the implications
Alistair Darling, Lesley Riddoch, Patrick Harvie and John Swinney
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 23 April 2013
Alistair Darling: 'A Scottish currency would be plain daft'
The SNP cannot guarantee Scotland would keep the pound after independence. The pound is the UK's currency. If we walk away, we will have to ask our neighbours to set up a eurozone-style currency union.
After the failures in Ireland, Greece and Cyprus, why would they want that? A currency union is a straitjacket. Scotland's tax and spending would have to be agreed by the other UK countries. That's not freedom. It's serfdom.
If we choose independence it will mean leaving the UK pound. There is no easy or certain way back in. After being found out on EU membership and Nato, the SNP must stop pretending that Scotland will automatically inherit the pound.
What will happen if we can't reach a deal over the pound?
It would mean setting up a new Scottish currency. That is plain daft. No one would know how much it was worth. It would be a hammer blow to businesses selling down south.
The only way to guarantee keeping the pound is to stay in the UK. The SNP have been caught out again – making up policy on the hoof. It's a gamble Scotland can't afford.
• Alistair Darling is MP for Edinburgh South West and a former chancellor
Lesley Riddoch: 'It's a McStalemate no side can easily win'
Sterling or not sterling? Common currency or border warfare? A pound or a thistle? The latest debate has animated economists but failed to set the heather alight for ordinary Scots. How many recently independent nations ever knew with certainty how their currency arrangements would work out? How many economists so knowledgeable about Scotland's fate post-independence can explain why "our" nationalised banks won't lend to small business today? Anyone able to unravel this ordinary economic mystery might be worth hearing. Instead economists of each "side" are spreading fear and reassurance – doing what they do best.
Example and past precedent are being hurled across Hadrian's Wall – in Northern Ireland they call the process "whatabouterie." Clearly 18 months of fiscal whatabouterie now loom as unionist politicians try to predict monetary meltdown without sounding completely negative and nationalists try to envisage "business as usual" without sounding utterly naive.
How many people are reading the fine detail? Some. But trust and angst are more powerful players. Alex Salmond's Holyrood is ahead of George (No Plan B) Osborne's Westminster on trust (71%, compared with 18% in a 2012 poll). But fear of an RBS or HBOS rerun still hangs like a shadow over the whole constitutional debate (even though banking failure took place on Alistair "Better Together" Darling's watch.)
It's a McStalemate no side can easily win – but one side must summon the political inspiration to overcome. We wait and hope.
• Lesley Riddoch is a writer and broadcaster
Patrick Harvie: 'Lay off the hyperbole'
This is a phoney war. The suggestions that a sterling zone is impossible or inevitable detracts from the real opportunity to tailor our currency arrangements to suit our circumstances.
In the event of a Yes vote in next year's referendum both sides would need to recognise the mandate given by the people, and get stuck into serious negotiations. Scotland's hand in those negotiations would be strengthened if the option of an independent currency was fully worked out and ready to implement in the medium term.
While the SNP says the use of the pound is inevitable because the economies of England and Scotland are broadly similar, this fails to recognise the likelihood of our economies diverging further down the road. If Scotland controls its own affairs it is reasonable to expect our priorities, for example on issues like energy and welfare, to differ from the rest of the UK, making a currency union increasingly difficult.
Meanwhile the Treasury is laying on the hyperbole with a trowel, warning that the costs of establishing a new Scottish currency would "destabilise" our economy and require capital controls, as though transaction taxes to minimise reckless speculation would be bad.
Many Scots remain undecided about the referendum. It's important that those who are undecided about independence are persuaded on the basis of opportunity and vision, rather than threats and fear.
• Patrick Harvie MSP is co-convener of the Scottish Green party
John Swinney: keeping the pound is best for Scottish jobs and growth
An independent Scotland will retain the pound, and the evidence – including the views of US economist Joseph Stiglitz and other members of the Fiscal Commission Working Group – shows that it is in the best interests of both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK to have a sterling zone.
An independent Scotland using the pound will mean sterling's balance of payments will be massively boosted by Scotland's huge assets, including North Sea oil and gas, which alone swelled the UK's balance of payments by £40bn in 2011-12.
This policy offers freedom for Scotland to develop our own taxation and spending policies to boost growth and address inequality. At present, the Scottish Parliament controls just 7% of Scotland's revenue base, and that would only increase to 15% under the terms of the Scotland Act.
With independence, Scotland will control 100% of our revenues, which is what it needs to be to enable us to build a stronger economy and fairer society.
The combination – which only comes with independence – of keeping the pound, accessing Scotland's abundant resources, and taking decisions on tax and other economic policies that are right for Scotland, is the best way to boost jobs and growth.
• John Swinney MSP is finance secretary in the Scottish government