SNP leadership suffers defeat over new Scots currency timescale
The SNP leadership has suffered a shock defeat over its "softly, softly" approach to introducing a new Scottish currency after independence.
Party delegates instead backed a fast-track approach to adopting the new currency "as soon as practicable after Independence Day" at the party's Spring conference in Edinburgh.It marks an embarrassing setback for Nicola Sturgeon who had backed a more cautious approach on the issue after a Yes vote. Six stringent fiscal tests were proposed by the leadership, with a decision to be be taken at the end of the first Parliament after independence.
Although the proposed tests are to remain place, the leadership plan for a new Scottish central bank to simply report annually on "progress" was rejected.The broader plan for a new currency ditches the 2014 policy to keep the pound in a currency union with the UK after a Yes vote - although an independent Scotland would still use the pound in the interim until the new policy is adopted.Delegates had warned that the leadership policy could lose votes and would be "massacred" on the doorstepsOpposition was led by former East Lothian MP George Kerevan who warned that the policy could lose the SNP votes on the doorsteps.He said: "Scots are canny and they're going to ask this question: `OK SNP, you voted to have you're own currency, when are you going to introduce it? And you will get your six tests out and you will say when we get through all of these - and they will not be convinced."The problem is a practical, political one. If you have a Scottish currency you're going to have to tell them when. Leaving the door open will lose votes not gain them."
Delegate Bill Ramsay questioned why so many SNP Parliamentarians had remained "silent" on the issue of currency."Pro-union parties will look at the six tests and say that the SNP advocates austerity," he said."They will say that it is us that are saying we are too small, they are saying it is us saying Scotland is too fragile and it is us that are being too timid."Agnes McGowan, a Nationalist councillor in North Lanarkshire, warned that the party would be "massacred" on the doorsteps over the policy."I don't look forward to going round the doors and saying to people, `Don't worry as we'll just be using the pound anyway," she said."That is a line which will be massacred by the opposition - and rightly so."She added: "Use of sterling would hamper the proper running of an independent Scotland by keeping most of the important tools of governing out of our hands to such an extent that the six tests would never be met." SNP Deputy leader Keith Brown had earlier warned that scrapping the six key tests could undermine the "strongest" case for independence."When the time comes to win our independence we have to be sure that we don't let that opportunity slip through our fingers," he said.Mr Brown said the tests were sensible and that it would be for an independent Scottish parliament after a yes vote to decide when the new currency is adopted.He warned the proposed amendments seeking a quickfire transition to a Scottish currency "carry risks."If passed they will "dilute what is the strongest prospectus for our economic future."The recent SNP National Assemblees on the case for independence had sought a "credible and incoherent" which could be sold on the doorsteps to Scots to in independence."Finance Secretary Derek Mackay also backed the leadership case."We don't have the choice if we don't have independence - that's why we need independence," Mackay told delegates."So we have a robust plan that unlocks our nation's enormous potential to match the performance of the best economies on Earth, reject austerity, invest in our public services and break free form the London-centric economic model which that has failed us as a country."This is a policy that will deliver an independent policy when the time is right, that allows us to focus on building our nation, tackling inequality and lifting us out of poverty."