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Currency union rejection 'a bluff'

The Chancellor's pledge to rule out a formal currency union with an independent Scotland is a bluff, according to almost half of voters north of the border.

A YouGov poll for The Times newspaper suggests 45% of Scots do not believe George Osborne's threat is real, compared with 40% who think he means what he says.

Mr Osborne insisted last month that he would not agree to the key Scottish Government proposal to formally share sterling after a Yes vote on September 18. The senior Tory was backed by Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders, suggesting no future UK Government would accept the SNP plan.

First Minister Alex Salmond immediately branded the position a bluff, and he appears to have wider support among voters.

The poll asked if people thought the UK party leaders are bluffing in order to increase the chances of a No vote, or it they "mean what they say" and the rest of the UK probably would not agree to a currency union.

Fifteen per cent of voters said they do not know what could happen.

A spokesman for Scotland's Finance Secretary, John Swinney, said: "This is a very welcome finding, which shows that people are not buying the Tory-led attempts to bully and scare Scotland.

"The pound is as much Scotland's currency as it is the rest of the UK's."

A UK Government spokesman repeated the Chancellor's position that there will be no currency union.

"You don't set up a joint bank account after you've split up. A currency union is not going to happen," the spokesman said.

"The UK Government has set out detailed analysis supported by numerous independent voices as to why a currency union is not in the interests of an independent Scotland or the remaining UK.

"This decision is not going to change. This means less than six months from the referendum the Scottish Government still has no plan for what currency they would use."

The Scottish Government's White Paper on independence, published last November, says a shared currency is in the "economic interests" of Scotland a nd the rest of the UK.

"It would be damaging to jobs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to the economy of the rest of the UK, if Scotland did not continue to use the pound," it notes.

Others in the pro-independence campaign, including the Greens, suggest Scotland should set up its own currency.

Mr Osborne ruled out the currency union proposal in a speech in Edinburgh, saying the pound is not an asset that can be divided up after a "messy divorce".

He said: "If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound."

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has also set out the pros and cons of a UK-Scotland currency union.

In a speech last month, also in Edinburgh, he said it could lead to eurozone-style crises unless firm foundations are put in place.

He also made clear that any decision is for voters and parliaments, and that the bank would operate any union to the "best of its ability".

The YouGov results, based on the questioning of 1,072 Scottish adults between March 20 and 24, also suggest that people are more likely to trust statements made by Mr Salmond than Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Salmond is trusted by 36% of voters compared with 22% for Mr Cameron.

Former chancellor Alistair Darling, who heads the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, commands the trust of 28% of voters, the poll suggests.

Despite those findings, separate polling shows Scots are not convinced by the Scottish Government's argument that the country would enjoy smooth transition to independent EU statehood.

The results show 39% think Scotland would have to leave the EU and negotiate back in, compared with 36% who agree with the White Paper position that Scotland can complete negotiations before formal independence day, already pencilled in by the SNP for March 2016.


From Belfast Telegraph