The SNP has been accused of an “act of desperation” after unveiling plans to establish a stand-alone Scottish currency after independence.
A motion earmarked for the party’s conference in Edinburgh next month will confirmthe shift in policy from the 2014 independence referendum when Alex Salmond proposed retaining the pound.
SNP deputy leader Keith Brown revealed he and finance secretary Derek Mackay will put forward the motion.
But opponents have dismissed the move, insisting the SNP’s revised plan for independence would mean years of austerity.
And it came as Scottish Secretary David Mundell branded the SNP “saboteurs of the union” over the party’s position on Brexit.
The SNP’s move on currency is in line with the findings of the party’s recent blueprint for independence, the Sustainable Growth Commission report produced by former MSP Andrew Wilson.
While Scotland would continue to use the pound in a transition period after a vote to leave the UK, the use of sterling would not be “an open-ended commitment”.
It marks a major shift on the SNP’s stance from the 2014 independence referendum when then-first minister Mr Salmond argued Scotland would continue to use the pound in a currency union with the rest of the UK.
This was strongly rejected by all of the UK parties, with uncertainty over currency arrangements regarded as being one of the reasons why Scots voted against leaving the UK. Mr Brown told a national newspaper he believed having plans for the county to move to its own currency would “maximise support for an independent Scotland”.
The SNP depute leader 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 until this “can be done safely and securely, our currency would continue to be the pound sterling”.
It comes after a major report on the economics of an independent Scotland last year concluded a separate Scottish currency could be set up if six tests are met.
After the 2014 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon established the Scottish Growth Commission to produce a fresh economic blueprint for a separate Scotland.
Its report, published in May last year, recommended Scotland should keep the pound during a transition period after any vote to leave the UK before moving to its own currency.
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, branded the Growth Commission report as a blueprint for “economic hardship”.
She said: “Even SNP members know this. This is an act of desperation by Nicola Sturgeon to keep her disgruntled supporters onside.”
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.”
Mr Mundell will attack the SNP in a speech today in Paisley. “Even if there was a decision taken today by the UK government not to leave the EU, independence would not be off the table,” he will say.
“There would always be some perceived slight or some manufactured grievance, for which independence is the only answer.
“For Sturgeon, Brexit has always been a tool to exploit for achieving her independence fantasy, of going down in history as the SNP leader who broke up the United Kingdom..”