Arc of Prosperity

Scottish Independence within the EU – with a Scandinavian Slant


The great currency consensus

You're making decisions by consensus, but are you collaborating?
You’re making decisions by consensus, but are you collaborating?, a photo by opensourceway on Flickr.
The Better Together campaigners seem to claim the Yes side are conducting a civil war on the currency issue (whether to continue to use the UK pound, or whether to introduce a separate Scottish currency).

However, in reality the differences within the Yes camp are mainly about time scales.

Nobody (well, almost nobody) seems to suggest that a new Scottish currency should be introduced on day 1 (i.e., March 2016) — advocates of a separate currency tend to think it should be introduced a few years afterwards (e.g., in 2019) to give the new state a chance to set of the Central Bank of Scotland, print the banknotes and mint the coins, etc.

Those who advocate retaining the pound tend to argue their case based mainly on the short term. For instance, here’s what the Fiscal Commission Working Group wrote:

7.11 The economic area of Scotland is sufficiently large to support its own currency.

7.12 In the long run, the creation of a new Scottish currency would represent a significant increase in economic sovereignty, with interest rate and exchange rate policy being two new policy tools and adjustment mechanisms to support the Scottish economy.

7.13 In the short-run there would however, be a number of practical challenges associated with moving to a new currency, including the not insignificant steps required to re-denominate contracts and maintain intra-UK supply chains.

I don’t think they (or any other proponents of maintaining a currency union with the rUK) have tried to quantify the short and long runs, but I reckon they think the “sterling union” would last at least ten years or so (i.e., until at least 2026).

To sum up, almost everybody on the Yes side agrees the pound sterling will still be used shortly after independence (e.g., in 2018), but probably not in the long run (e.g., in 2030). The only difference is a question of time scales, and of how vigorously to pursue a proper currency union (as opposed to simply using the pound without representation on the Bank of England’s MPC).

The differences within the Better Together parties are probably larger. The LibDems are still in theory in favour of joining the euro (and when the Eurozone recovers, they will start saying this more loudly), and the Tories are wedded to the pound. This means they don’t just disagree about the time scales, but about the direction of economic policy.

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