Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 14th August 2014.

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Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

2. To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Secretary of State for Scotland. (S4F-02247)

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

The First Minister has heroically tried to spin the words of the governor of the Bank of England as a win for him. They are not. We are the side that is advocating the best solution for Scotland, which is keeping the pound in its current stable form. We are the side that backs our banks having a trusted lender of last resort and we are the side that knows that you cannot get divorced and still keep the joint account.

The First Minister is the one who is throwing a hand grenade into that mix. He is the reason why the governor is now being forced to prepare contingencies, and he is the reason why the headlines this morning are talking about capital flight and chaos. He demands independence and claims that nothing will change, but when there is a fallout he protests that somebody else should have to clear it up.

We know that the First Minister hates taking responsibility for anything, but is he really suggesting that this is the fault of everybody else?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

No, I am suggesting that it is the responsibility of the no campaign, which is deliberately trying to create instability as a campaign tactic. I am not blaming other people—I am allocating that responsibility to the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, and their alliance in the no campaign. I am applauding the action of the governor of the Bank of England in fulfilling his responsibilities and recognising that those responsibilities continue after September 18. That is exactly what a governor of the Bank of England is meant to do.

For the unionist parties to deny, given the evidence that I have quoted, that they are engaged in trying to engender fear and instability is extraordinary. Why did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that there would be no inward investment? Why did the Conservative Party say that there was already a loss of jobs? Is the evidence not that that scaremongering has been confounded, just as the attempt to create instability in the financial markets will be confounded as well?

Photo of Ruth Davidson Ruth Davidson Conservative

The issue for the First Minister is that he knows that the currency union that we have right now—one that works only because we are part of the United Kingdom—is the very best option for Scotland. The stability and security of the UK pound is trusted and understood the world over and that is why he is desperate to salvage as much of it as he can.

The First Minister’s problem is not that he does not get it; it is that he cannot sell it. Every option that he has on the table—from a currency deal without a willing partner to sterlingisation or an 18-month transition to who knows what—is less than we have now and the people of Scotland understand that. Why should we settle for second best on the currency when a simple no vote will let us keep everything that we already have?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Well, I have to say that the people of Scotland who are watching will not believe that a David Cameron Government is worth keeping for Scotland.

We have had substantial evidence from the social attitudes survey that having a sterling union is the overwhelming choice of the Scottish people. We have also had—[Interruption.]

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

We are advocating a currency union because we think that it is in the best interests of the people of Scotland. A majority in that survey also believe that that is what will happen after independence, and they are right to believe that, because we know the consequences of the unionist parties attempting to keep all the financial assets of the UK for themselves. If they keep the financial assets, they end up with the liabilities—they end up saddled with the UK’s debt.

It is incredible, as we discussed last week, to believe that George Osborne or Ed Balls wants to say, “We are not going to take the up to £5 billion a year that the Scottish Government has responsibly said it will finance”—our share of the UK debt—“We don’t want that. We will saddle it on English taxpayers.” That is the inevitable consequence of the refusal to countenance the currency union.

Then we come to where people will say the decisions should lie. I thought that, when we had Jackson Carlaw manning the barricades and the comment from Ruth Davidson—which we all know, incidentally, was that she would support a currency union if it was in the best interests of the Scottish people—we had an acknowledgement from the Conservatives that they regarded the vote and verdict of the Scottish people as important.

I say to Ruth Davidson that, on September 18, if people in Scotland vote for what is in the white paper and the proposals to keep the pound, that is exactly what will happen and any Scottish politician who does not recognise the sovereign choice of the Scottish people will pay a heavy price. Incidentally, that is something that the Conservatives are long used to in political campaigns in Scotland.