SNP holds first national assembly to debate Scottish independence blueprint

Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin
Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin
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About 400 people have attended the first of several SNP events being held to debate a new economic blueprint for independence.

The national assembly meeting was held in Ayr, South Ayrshire, on Saturday to gather party members’ views on the findings of the Growth Commission, published in May.

Two further national assemblies are due to take place in Aviemore in the Highlands and Edinburgh next month, ahead of the SNP’s autumn conference in October.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown, chair of the assemblies, said: “I’m delighted that the first national assembly event attracted so many people and generated such a range of positive ideas and contributions on the sustainable growth commission report.

“This is so valuable as we build a fresh case for an independent Scotland.”

The Growth Commission, set up by Nicola Sturgeon and chaired by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, set out a series of recommendations for the economy in an independent Scotland.

Its proposals include keeping Sterling without a formal currency union after Scotland leaves the UK.

A separate Scottish currency could be set up after a period of about a decade, but only if six key economic tests were met, the commission said.

The move would see the Bank of England continue to set interest rates and other monetary policy in the years after independence.

The commission also said it would take 10 years to get Scotland’s deficit rate under control while an independent Scotland would take up to 25 years to match the economic performance of other small countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand.

The First Minister has insisted the report sets out an alternative to Westminster’s “austerity” but the document has been criticised by some Yes supporters.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland ahead of the meeting in Ayr, Mr Brown said the commission had presented a “very realistic hard-headed approach”, but he added “of course it may be the case that members of the party have a different point of view and that’s why we’re having these national assemblies”.

Challenged on some members’ objections to retaining Sterling, Mr Brown added: “I can say from the meetings I’ve had so far, there are some views along those lines in terms of the currency - people not happy with sticking with the pound for that period of time.

“But that would be a minority in the discussions I’ve had so far, and we’ll find out what the strength of feeling is (at the national assembly).”