Osborne: Scotland worse off alone
Chancellor George Osborne has issued a warning that Scotland would be worse off if it broke away from the United Kingdom.
Mr Osborne, who chairs the Cabinet's Scotland committee, refused to say whether an independent Scotland would be allowed to retain the pound.
He made clear, however, that Scotland would have to take on its share of the national debt and he questioned whether it would be able to bail out its banks in the event of a financial collapse.
"I think the people of Scotland would lose out in terms of the Scottish economy. I don't think Scotland would be as prosperous as it would be as part of the UK," he told ITV News.
"If you look at the scale of the national debt for example that Scotland would have to take if it became independent, if you look at the fact it has an important banking industry as we know and you ask yourself 'Would Scotland alone have been able to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland or Halifax Bank of Scotland?'"
His comments came after First Minister Alex Salmond declared an independent Scotland would not be prepared to share the UK Government's exposure to RBS's toxic assets. Mr Salmond has also said that while an independent Scotland would eventually join the euro, initially it would retain the pound.
But pressed on whether he would allow Scotland to keep sterling, Mr Osborne replied: "Alex Salmond has said Scotland should join the euro - that means giving up the pound, joining the euro.
"That is not the currency I'd be wanting to join at a time like this."
Earlier Mr Salmond told his unionist opponents he wanted to reach a consensus on the staging of a referendum on independence, which he has said will be held in autumn 2014.
"I am anxious, like I hope every other member in this chamber is, to get to the nub of the argument, to let the Scottish people decide their own future," he added.