A second referendum? What have you done now, Darling?

Alistair Darling suggests whole of the UK should get a vote on Scotland's bid for currency union

Column LAST UPDATED AT 10:29 ON Mon 31 Mar 2014

ALISTAIR DARLING, the former Labour Chancellor who has been taking flak for leading a lacklustre No campaign against Scottish independence, has blundered into deep water by raising the prospect of yet another referendum – this one for the rest of the UK, to vote on whether the Scots should enjoy currency union in the event of the Yes campaign winning independence this September.

The idea that the voters of England and Wales and perhaps even Northern Ireland should have to vote on this aspect of Scottish independence may strike some as mad. And for Darling to even raise the idea suggests a lack of confidence in the No campaign being successful, which will infuriate fellow unionists.

But Darling went ahead and said it anyway on Radio 4's Today programme this morning: if there is a Yes vote on 18 September and Alex Salmond, Scotland’s putative Prime Minister, seeks to keep the British pound, the rest of the UK should be given a say.

Darling: "Nicola Sturgeon [Scotland’s deputy First Minister] said there was no need for a referendum for the rest of the UK if they went into a currency union."

Today presenter James Naughtie: "Do you think they should?"

Darling: "Yeah – I think people in the rest of the UK do need a say over whether they go into a currency union."

Realising he was getting in a bit deep, Darling drew back as Naughtie tried to pin him down. "I don’t know what the other political parties would do," said Darling. "I do know it’s almost certain that the political parties would make it clear in their manifestos [for the 2015 general election] that they would not be willing to enter into a currency union precisely because it means sharing sovereignty as it would do if we joined the euro."

Darling said Nicola Sturgeon did not understand what a currency was. "She says it’s the same as we have got now. No it’s not. You would have two separate countries - we would have to reach agreement on tax, spending, borrowing and everything else."

What provoked Darling’s comments this morning was a report in Saturday's Guardian quoting an anonymous junior minister saying that, despite all three parties being against the idea, Scotland would be allowed currency union if it wanted it. 

That has thrown the No campaign into turmoil and given Salmond and Sturgeon the boost they were needing to claim that the Yes campaign has got Big Mo – momentum.

Chancellor George Osborne and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander were reported to be hopping mad about the junior minister's briefing to the Guardian and wanted to know his or her identity so they could be taken to the Tower.

A Treasury insider told the Telegraph that months of preparation on the case against independence has been jeopardised. “I am livid - the amount of work that has gone into that.”

Number 10 sources told the paper the comments were “not helpful at all” while a Labour party source said: “This is a first order piece of strategic self-harm."

Salmond and Sturgeon, of course, are cock-a-hoop – which helps explain why the coalition's Scotland minister, Alistair Carmichael, used an interview with the Observer yesterday to warn that the Yes campaign may be behind in the opinion polls but it has a greater "hunger" for victory and has time before 18 September to create an unstoppable momentum. 

He warned that supporters of the union in Scotland were assuming victory and failing to shout loudly enough in favour of remaining part of the UK. "The danger is that by the time they realise it could happen, it could be too late," he said. 

Alistair Darling needs to think up some better reasons for saying No to Scottish independence than the threat of a second referendum south of the border. And fast.  · 

Disqus - noscript

Why is there so much anger? Because it was a bluff, a big bluff, and it has been undermined.

And who asked for the bluff? Alasdair Darling, and Andrew Dunlop of HMG's Scotland Office: because the No campaign needed a fillip, something to attack with. Now all unionist warnings are even less credible.

This is crazy. A knee jerk reaction. The argument NO has put forward re a Currency Union is that it COULD NOT WORK. So no amount of successful referendums saying YES to a CU will make it work if it's unworkable e.g. my car won't drive under the sea no matter how much I might want it. We were given to believe that a CU was similarly impossible - but not so it would appear. NO's credibility slips further downwards. YES18

The no campaign are a joke,nothing but scaremongering ,misinformation and out and out lies.just give me one good reason to retain the union.Darling and Carmichael are nothing but a pair of wide boy changers.

Hi,
A second referendum? What have you done now, Darling? The lack of a clear decisive position on a currency union by the English government is disturbing. If England go into such a currency union with an independent Scotland this amounts to the same as what happened to the euro with Greece. Scotland must manage the consequences of independence.

Is Scotland wants independence then go it alone. No common currency and no links of any kind to the rest of the UK. Get your own passports and look after yourselves completely.

Why would a member of a party so opposed to referendum on complex matters like the EU and the EURO, want to have a referendum about a complex matter like a currency union when a fair percentage of the electorate would think they were voting to buy Scotland.
Anyway Mr Salmond has stated emphatically that we do not need one. Good enough for me!

darling could pull off a double bluff on himself,a poker 1st

How do you propose we sever these links? You really haven't thought this through, have you.Silly Nishni.

"A Treasury insider told the Telegraph that months of preparation on the case against independence has been jeopardised. “I am livid - the amount of work that has gone into that.”

So an admission from the supposedly impartial UK Treasury that vetoing the CU was nothing to do with a calm, rational economic assessment, but just part of the UK government's case against independence.

That's our tax money paying these people to produce propaganda against us having self determination.

Les - while I am English through and through, from the deep South West of England, I thoroughly agree with you. If Scotland votes for Independence then the rest of the Union should accept that outcome with good grace. To lie, prevaricate, obfuscate, or to otherwise seek to deny the Scottish electorate the true facts of the case is reprehensible. Both sides of this debate seem to have indulged in this sinister and undemocratic practice.

However, we should expect that the "yes" campaign will engage in such dissembling of the truth, just as much as will our Westminster "boy blunders". Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond desperately need a "yes" vote in order to save their political skins - they have made too many and varied bold assumptions and, seemingly, factual assertions to be able to walk away from the wreckage of a "no" vote and expect to retain their credibility.

My one question throughout all of this has been "Why won't Salmond allow Scots who are resident elsewhere within the UK to have a say in this referendum?" Perhaps both he and Sturgeon have calculated that "exile" Scots are rather less narrow- minded and more worldly wise than he would like - and thus more likely to vote "no" to his ambitions.

I have very many Scottish friends from my Army days - and, almost to a man, they are strongly against the concept of independence for Scotland - they construe the notion as being spiteful, petty, vindictive and downright unnecessary.

Darling is looking for a get out of jail card. He knows his flush is bust, the former UK economy is in peril, without Scotland in Sterling hyperinflation beckons. Thatcher and Blair/Brown sold off the country's gold reserves which had been used to guarantee the currency. They chose instead to use north sea oil revenue as security on their borrowings instead, never for a moment thinking the Scots would do the unthinkable and take their ball back leaving the poor fUK without balls of their own to play with. To add insult, without the Scottish £148bn contribution to fUK liquidity the much vaunted deficit reduction scheme lies dead in the water with Sterling and its associated London markets prey to blood thirsty sharks. This is where we have to introduce a note of sobriety to the ya boo sucks from north Britains, because like it or loath it Scotland really can do without its largest trading partner going tits up. Darling knew all of this from the outset, he just never dreamt we would not be suckered again and call his bluff. His only escape with any semblance of dignity would be if he could say it wisnae me, they made me!

As it says above, James Naughtie [Scot] asked Alistair Darling [Scot] if the rest of the UK should have a vote about Currency Union. Do you smell a rat [Scot] here ?

Actually as I heard the discussion, Naughtie led Darling along and really proposed the referendum, which darling was too slow to avoid.
As an Englishman, why would Scotland want to be tied economically to the rest of the UK - they would have less freedom than now ?
So the BBC and the Telegraph have no sense of responsibility - any old rubbish that makes a story will do.

So, what happened to "there will NEVER be a currency agreement with an independent Scotland!"? Add Alistair Darling to the growing list of unionists retreating from that position.

....and if these friends live in Scotland they will have a vote, Chris. However, if they are living abroad and are bringing up their children and even grandchildren outside Scotland why should they have a say on the futures of people who live here. Unlike British nationalism, ours is of the civic variety so notions of race, birth and nationality are not taken into account when deciding who can vote. Obviously, some will be disappointed but the logistics of trying to register everyone in the world who believes they have a Scottish connection (and many mischief-makers, no doubt) would be an impossible task. No, the present system is the fairest.

...yes, Grendal, I can see your point re the difficulty of monitoring the true credentials and eligibility of claimants to the right to vote - however, the undercurrent seems to be that Scottish "exiles" have been deliberately excluded from the process - disenfranchised, to a point.

Surely a fairer system would have been to invite registrations well in advance of the planned referendum date - say two years in advance? (Quite feasible) and then scrutinise and, if necessary, filter out the "dodgy claimants. Methinks that the "risk of fraud and the difficulty of properly assessing the rights to vote have been mighty convenient excuses.

As for the "grandchildren" argument - surely, anyone who might vote in a General Election bears the same burden of responsibility to succeeding generations - look at the mess we left for our children and grandchildren when we voted "yes" to the EEC in 1975, only to discover that we had been wilfully and cynically misled by Ted Heath et al - how do we explain that to our issue?

Also, that referendum was open to overseas Britons - I voted at an ad hoc polling booth in the British Military Hospital in Hanover, while serving with the British Army of the Rhine; to my shame I voted "yes" - NEVER AGAIN.