UK's Osborne says no legal reason independent Scotland should keep pound
EDINBURGH - Agence France-Presse
Britain's Chancellor George Osborne gives a speech linked to the forthcoming referendum in Edinburgh, Scotland Thursday, Feb 13, 2014. AP PhotoBritish finance minister George Osborne said Thursday there was no legal reason the rest of the United Kingdom should share the pound with an independent Scotland if it votes to break away in a referendum this year.
"There's no legal reason why the rest of the UK would need to share its currency with Scotland," Osborne said in a speech.
"If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound." First Minister Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party has claimed an independent Scotland would have the right to retain the pound and become part of a currency union with the rest of Britain.
But in the British government's strongest intervention in the independence debate to date, Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne said the SNP had offered "nothing more than confusion, wild assertion and empty threats".
He said: "They are like the angry party to a messy divorce. But the pound isn't an asset to be divided up between two countries after a break-up as if it were a CD collection." Osborne said the pound was "one of the oldest and most successful currencies in the world".
"I want Scotland to keep the pound and the economic security that it brings," he added.
Osborne repeatedly cited Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's comments last month that an independent Scotland would have to cede some sovereignty if it wanted currency union, or risk the problems shown by the eurozone.
Osborne later tweeted: "I couldn't recommend a currency union with a separate Scotland; I don't think any other Chancellor could either." Britain's three main political parties are also due on Thursday to join forces to deliver a warning to Scottish voters that they will not be able to keep the pound if they opt for independence.
The ruling coalition of Cameron and Osborne's Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats as well as the main opposition Labour Party will all say they would not allow Scots to retain the pound.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon dismissed the warnings as the "Westminster establishment" trying to bully Scotland and warned the move would backfire on the anti-independence parties.
Osborne said he was taking the "exceptional" step of publishing legal advice to the government from the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, the most senior civil servant in the finance ministry, on the possibility of Scotland retaining the pound.
The advice says: "I would advise you against entering into a currency union with an independent Scotland.
"There is no evidence that adequate proposals or policy changes to enable the formation of a currency union could be devised, agreed and implemented by both governments in the foreseeable future."
Prime Minister David Cameron took a softer tone in a speech last week, urging all parts of the United Kingdom to persuade their Scottish friends and family to vote against independence in the September 18 referendum.