Independent Scotland would ‘slowly and surely’ return to the UK

Former chancellor Alistair Darling says currency union would lead back to political union.

Alistair Darling: Targeting Dundee West consituency
© STV

An independent Scotland that kept the pound as its currency will "slowly and surely" return to political union with the rest of the UK, a former chancellor has warned.

The SNP plans for Scotland to keep sterling if the country voted to leave the UK in the 2014 referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond argues that Scotland would be part of a "sterling zone" with the rest of Britain.

But former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, who is a Scottish Labour MP and is heading the pro-union Better Together campaign, said a currency union could mean the government in an independent Scotland having to submit its budget plans to London for approval.

A currency union would also lead to the country returning to political and economic union with the rest of the UK later on, Mr Darling said during a speech in Glasgow.

The Nationalists have failed to ask if the rest of the UK would agree to a currency union with Scotland, he said.

Mr Darling added: "There's two things about a currency union. One is you have to ask the other lot if they want to go into it and nobody has and nobody plans to. But the second thing is this, with a currency union, as you see in Europe, you have to submit your budget to somebody else for approval.

"So if the idea of independence is you can go your own way, what is point of getting yourself into the situation where you actually have to submit your budget to someone else, who will not let you go too far away from wherever they want to be in order to preserve the currency?

"The other thing about currency union is that it would take you slowly and surely to economic and then political union. So what is the point of leaving one political union only to end up coming back to the exact same point several years later."

Scots will vote on the country's future in 2014, with Mr Darling saying the referendum campaign will be "longer than the United States takes to elect a president". This means it would be "an awful long time before we will actually know where we are" and the resulting "uncertainty" would be damaging for business.

If Scotland stays in the UK, it would benefit from the being part of the "largest and oldest single market" while the financial services industry would continue to have a single regulatory regime, he said.

An independent Scotland would not have the global influence of the UK, Mr Darling said. Britain is "very influential in the world", he added. "We're shareholders in the International Monetary Fund. We're on the United Nations Security Council. We're major shareholders in the World Bank"

Within the European Union (EU), it is the "big countries that have the influence and call the shots". He said he does not think an independent Scotland would be turned away by the EU, but attacked the Scottish Government for having only recently sought specific legal advice on membership.

Mr Darling continued: "We now find out that far from having legal advice that we would be guaranteed membership, no such advice exists at all. Frankly that's not good enough. I'm pretty sure that Europe would not say to Scotland, 'push off we don't want to know you'. But if you apply or your entry is in any way questioned, there would be strings attached. More uncertainty."

There would be "no going back" if people voted for independence. He said: "They only have to win once. Once that has happened there is no opportunity for second thoughts."

The debate about the country's future is too important to "stand on the sidelines", Mr Darling said. "I stepped back from frontline politics and that's what I had hoped to do, but I have come back into it because this is something I care passionately about. It is too important to stand on the sidelines. It's too important for all of you if you have views, questions, to sit quietly. Don't do that. Don't wake up the next morning and say 'I wish I had spoken out'."

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