NEVER before has an independence movement been so well-informed on the ins and outs of monetary policy. The long-running debate over which currency an independent Scotland should use has inspired heated discussions in our town halls, pubs, doorsteps, conferences and National Assemblies over the past few years.

Mostly, though, the debate has taken place in the pages of this newspaper. We were the first to have exclusive stories on the Common Weal think tank’s various policy papers. Our readers discovered the recommendations of the Growth Commission a day earlier than everyone else. When the SNP leadership published its conference motion earlier this year, you read it here first.

We’ve printed many interventions from each side, by the likes of Andrew Wilson, George Kerevan, Robin McAlpine, Kirsty Blackman, Craig Dalzell and Derek Mackay. We’ve run countless letters from readers – and then, finally, a dramatic, comprehensive pitch to SNP members from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon herself in Saturday’s paper.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: This plan is ambitious AND credible – it can win us independence

Our readers, then, are surely the best informed in Scotland to come to a sensible decision on the question. But we also feel it would be a dereliction of our duty to not outline our own position, having given the space for so many others to have their say – even at the risk of upsetting some who may take the opposite view. We have, up until now, printed hundreds of thousands of words on this subject. Here are a few more.


WHEN picking over the reasons why the Yes campaign lost in 2014, it was clear that one major White Paper position would have to be reworked for whenever the next referendum was called. Whether or not Westminster would have, ultimately, agreed to a currency union – we still believe they would – it was clear that next time it would be folly to leave such a critical plank of policy in the hands of a hostile UK Government. Visions of Alistair Darling barking “you can’t even tell us what currency you’re going to use” haunted the critical, final weeks of the 2014 referendum campaign. That must not be allowed to happen again.

The National: Alistair Darling's soundbite on currency haunted the final weeks of the indyref campaign in 2014Alistair Darling's soundbite on currency haunted the final weeks of the indyref campaign in 2014

This, along with the dramatic fall in the global oil price, another unforeseen external circumstance, meant the dynamic of the economic debate had changed. New solutions were required to solve unanticipated problems.

Enter Andrew Wilson and the Sustainable Growth Commission, which was tasked by the First Minister to come up with the answers. One of its principal recommendations – that Scotland should continue to use the pound outwith a currency union, before a managed transition to an independent currency if six key economic tests are met – has largely been adopted by the SNP leadership.

They have taken the position one slight step further – committing even more firmly to a new currency as default SNP policy for the first time ever and declaring an aim to launch it within the lifetime of the first independent Scottish Parliament. But the six tests, they say, must still be met.

This has upset some on the more radical wing of the independence movement, who claim these tests will be a millstone around Scotland’s neck – and that not establishing a Scottish pound right away will limit the levers of economic policy and leave too much power in the hands of the rUK.

So do the SNP leadership have a sensible, credible economic proposal for an independent Scotland?

READ MORE: The key issues as SNP counts down to Spring Conference

Before we get to that, let us first make one thing clear. Currency is important. Of course it is, and we would never try to claim otherwise. But it is not, in our view, the make-or-break decision which could either doom Scotland to ruin or elevate it to untold wealth if only we choose wisely.

There are small successful countries which have their own currency. There are small successful countries which don’t have their own currency.

We believe an independent Scotland would thrive in a currency union with the UK. We believe we would flourish by using the pound without one. We believe our new nation could prosper with its own independent currency. Even the euro, for some reason rarely talked about, would be a safe, credible option.

The National: Andrew Wilson is the author of the SNP's Growth Commission reportAndrew Wilson is the author of the SNP's Growth Commission report

With that in mind, we would also like to a sound a note of caution to independence-supporting critics of the Wilson plan who claim that if their own proposals aren’t implemented then Scotland faces a bleak future – that we would be set for “disaster” or even “monetary suicide”. Does a slightly longer transition to a new currency really justify this sort of attack?

All this dramatic language will do is supply ammunition to whatever emerges as the next Better Together. The real disaster, in our view, is staying part of the Union any longer than necessary.


WHEN mapping out the route to building our small successful nation, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the most difficult part of our journey will take place before voters in Scotland reach the ballot box. Long before our first independent MSPs are elected, any shiny new coins are minted or the blueprints for our Scottish Central Bank are drawn up.

The key thing our currency policy needs to do is persuade Scots who are not already on board to decide that independence is a credible economic option. And, as much as some may wish otherwise, polling has consistently shown that the vast majority of Scots would like to keep the pound – with just 6% of undecided voters keen to switch to a Scottish currency in the short term according to a recent survey.

READ MORE: Letters: Your responses to Nicola Sturgeon's 'path to victory' article

This is, by far, the most persuasive argument for the Andrew Wilson currency plan. And these polls can’t simply be wished away.

Dr Craig Dalzell, the Common Weal researcher, recently said on Twitter: “The currency debate hasn’t reached the wider public domain yet. It’s only us activists who are thrashing out the pros and cons of the options. I wouldn’t put much weight behind any push polling at this time.”

Perhaps in another world, with a Scottish media and a political class which were willing and able to engage with each currency plan from an honest position, we might agree. But that’s not the Scotland we live in.

We live in a Scotland in which nearly all of the media is lined up against us, looking for any and every opportunity to discredit our case – and to thwart our ambitions. Every Unionist politician, aided and abetted by newspapers and broadcasters, will be wailing about the risks associated with launching a new currency too soon. Risks to mortgages, jobs, investments, wages, businesses, savings. Project Fear II could be a sequel to make the original seem like nothing.

The National: Robin McAlpine's Common Weal find it hard to get coverage of their reports in the Unionist mediaRobin McAlpine's Common Weal find it hard to get coverage of their reports in the Unionist media

So how, we wonder, can the likes of Common Weal expect to counter these claims? Director Robin McAlpine has complained before that they find it difficult to get even a paragraph in the mainstream press (apart from this newspaper). On the other hand, Unionist so-called “think tank” These Islands can command space on Scottish front pages despite doing very little to deserve that position. We are as dismayed as any independence supporters by this. But that’s where we are.

Of course, the usual suspects who are trotted out as Better Together mouthpieces will rubbish any plan other than the status quo. (The status quo, incidentally, is the situation responsible for our fiscal deficit and sluggish growth – unquestionably the BEST argument for independence, not a reason to stay in the Union).

But when the Andrew Wilson plan was first published last year, it made headway with people who were traditionally hostile. It was well received by mainstream economists, the people whose pronouncements do lead news stories and bulletins.

Paul Johnson of the IFS said it was “rooted in reality”. Professor John Kay, in the Financial Times, wrote that it was an “altogether more mature document” than the 2014 White Paper. Newspaper columnists who seemed vehemently opposed to the idea of voting Yes started making noises about changing their minds. Many Scots are on this journey, and our task is to help them along the way.

The Growth Commission was pitched squarely at middle Scotland – those who need to be, and can be, persuaded of the merits of independence. We need to win over these people, and not simply build a case which suits ourselves.

The SNP leadership has already compromised, by declaring its intent to hasten the transition to a Scottish pound, when it’s possible and safe to do so.

That is a not insignificant step towards the position advocated by those independence supporters who call for more radical action still.

Yes, we will have to accept that, in the very short term, Scotland’s monetary policy will be limited. But while polling evidence is beginning to show, for the first time, that most Scots now believe that independence will be better economically in the long run, it is the transition to get to that point which still holds fears among the people who matter most – the undecided voters and “soft Nos”.

READ MORE: Derek Mackay: Timing must be right for Scotland's new currency

People need to be reassured that independence will be as smooth and as painless as possible. To do that, we need a currency plan which is credible, achievable, and can convince Scotland that it’s safe to vote Yes.

But most of all, we need a currency plan which can stop everyone talking about currency.

Because let’s face it, this one specific aspect of monetary policy isn’t going to inspire people. Nobody will vote Yes just because they really like the idea of a Scottish pound. It’s not what we want to be talking about during the campaign. But so long as Scots accept our position, they will allow themselves to be inspired by all the other things we can achieve with the full powers of independence. We believe the Mackay/Brown conference motion and the Wilson plan is not only the best option – it’s the one which will lead to victory.

Ultimately, the question of independence is about one thing, and one thing only. Who gets to decide Scotland’s fate? Is it Westminster, and a majority of MPs who have no real interest in serving our needs, or is it the people of Scotland and the MSPs they elect?

Winning independence could be the most important achievement of all our lifetimes. After that, the world awaits. And the possibilities will still be endless. Let’s never lose sight of that.