SNP depute leader proposes new currency for independent Scotland

Opposition parties have criticised plans for an independent Scotland to establish its own currency in a proposed major SNP policy shift.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will put forward a motion to the party’s conference in Edinburgh next month that “it should now be party policy that an SNP government in an independent Scotland would establish an independent currency”.

While Scotland would continue to use the pound in a transition period after a vote to leave the UK, Mr Brown said this would not be “an open-ended commitment”.

The move comes amid speculation that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will call for the power to hold a second referendum in the near future – expected to be rejected by Westminster – having said in January she would set out her thoughts on the issue in the “coming weeks”.

Plans for a Scottish currency mark a major shift on the SNP’s stance ahead of the 2014 independence referendum – when then-first minister Alex Salmond said Scotland would continue to use the pound in a UK-wide currency union.

All the UK parties rejected this and uncertainty over currency was seen as one of the reasons why Scots voted against leaving the UK.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling (left) challenged then-SNP leader Alex Salmond over his plans for an independent Scotland to retain the pound in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum (David Cheskin/PA)

The Scottish Conservatives branded the latest plans “absurd” while other political opponents warned the new policy proposals would impose austerity on Scotland.

Writing in The National newspaper, Mr Brown said: “We will propose that it should now be party policy that an SNP government in an independent Scotland would establish an independent currency.”

He added that until this “can be done safely and securely, our currency would continue to be the pound sterling”.

Mr Brown wrote: “The process of moving to a new currency must be managed robustly and be guided by the best interests of the Scottish people and economy – in short, it must be done at the right time, in a way that affords necessary protection for our nation’s economy and for people’s personal finances.

“We propose that necessary preparations, including the work of building the institutions that we need, such as an independent central bank, would begin during the transition period.

“And the aim of an SNP government would be to complete preparations in time for the newly independent Scottish Parliament, informed by assessments and information from the central bank, to take a decision on establishing a new currency by the end of its first term. ”

Mr Brown concluded: “I believe this approach will maximise support for an independent Scotland.

“And it goes to the heart of the case for independence – providing a democratically elected independent parliament with the means to take the best decisions for Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon tweeted that Mr Brown’s statements were “great”.

The moves follows an economic blueprint for an independent Scotland, commissioned by the First Minister, which concluded that a separate Scottish currency could be set up if six tests are met.

The Scottish Growth Commission report, published in May 2018, recommended that Scotland should keep the pound during a transition period after any vote to leave the UK, before moving to its own currency.

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the plan to ditch the pound was “absurd”.

He added: “Only four years ago Sturgeon and Salmond told us it was ‘Scotland’s pound’ and we’d be keeping it.

“Now they want to dump it, with massive consequences for people’s pay packets, mortgages and livelihoods.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The so-called Growth Commission outlines a further decade of austerity, with tax cuts and more power for big business, and fewer rights for workers. This is the exact opposite of what Scotland needs.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “SNP currency plans seem to change with the seasons but what is clear as day is that an independent Scotland would have no choice but to impose austerity on public services.”

He said this was laid out in the Growth Commission report