UK to Scotland: Back independence means no pound

AP News
Posted: Feb 13, 2014 7:46 AM

LONDON (AP) — Scotland has been warned.

If it votes to leave the United Kingdom later this year, then it walks away from the pound.

That's the hard-line message presented Thursday by U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne, who ruled out a currency union in a speech in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

The pound, he insisted, would not be an asset divided up after a "messy divorce." The other major U.K. parties have supported that view.

"The pound isn't an asset to be divided up between the two countries after breakup as if it were a CD collection," he said. "The value of the pound doesn't lie in the paper and ink that's used to print it."

A key plank of the strategy presented by independence leaders is that Scotland would share the pound if they win the Sept. 18 referendum. But Osborne ruled that out, arguing that the value of the pound lies in the "entire monetary system underpinning it."

Why, he asked, should the remaining U.K. members — England, Wales and Northern Ireland — shoulder the risk of a currency union should Scotland vote to break away?

"If Scotland walks away from the U.K., it walks away from the U.K. pound," he said.

Osborne's remarks signal an intensification of the debate over independence and mark a contrast to the "love-bombing" approach of Prime Minister David Cameron.

Last week, Cameron made an impassioned appeal for Scotland to remain in the union that it's been a part of for over 300 years — a watershed moment that touched on history and shared glories. To stress that point, he made the speech at London's Olympic Park, where Britain enjoyed so much success and unity in staging the 2012 games.

While Cameron tried to tease out the emotional link, Osborne played to the pocketbook, reminding independence-minded Scots that without a currency union, they would have to face the markets alone to raise money in their new country. He even warned that one of the first things an independent Scotland would have to do is default on its debts.

Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister for Scotland, told the BBC that such remarks amounted to "campaign rhetoric."