Sensible Talks on Currency Will Begin After a Yes Vote

04/02/2014 14:51 GMT | Updated 06/04/2014 10:59 BST

Setting aside the usual thinly-disguised glee that comes from some in the official No campaign whenever they can repeat their 'Scotland can't do' mantra, their argument against a monetary union after a Yes vote does not stand up to scrutiny, on a number of levels.

Sterling is already a shared currency. The Bank of England is a shared asset, despite its name. Governor Mark Carney made clear that the Bank of England would implement whatever arrangements are negotiated and agreed between the rUK and Scotland, in terms of the continued sharing of these assets post-independence.

Given that the Scottish Government's Fiscal Commission and the independence White Paper align almost completely with what Mr Carney said in his speech in Edinburgh in terms of the need for negotiation and rules of a Sterling Area, it is disingenuous, and bordering on the desperate, for the No campaign to claim he has somehow undermined the Yes argument.

Alistair Darling and his supporters should also be careful what they wish for. If they want to argue that a monetary union would be rejected after a Yes vote in September - though simple common sense dictates it will not - this has serious implications for both the rUK position, following a Yes vote, and also immediately undermines their own credibility with regard to devolved powers.

Of course, no matter how loud and frenzied the anti-Yes rhetoric might be now, everybody knows - even Mr Darling - that sensible negotiations between Scotland the rUK will begin immediately upon independence.

Why? Firstly, because it is in the best interests of both countries. And secondly, because the reality is that Sterling is a fully convertible currency. This means that any country, an independent Scotland included, can use it if it so chooses, without formal agreement. In this scenario, the rUK would have no negotiating power at all with regard to, for example, sharing current debt.

It is probably more in the rUK interest to reach an agreement on the terms of a formal Sterling Area than it is in Scotland's, and I would expect the future Scottish Government to be able to play a very strong hand in negotiations.

To be clear, any negotiations would not lead to an independent Scotland 'giving up' sovereignty. It would merely demonstrate the use of its sovereign powers to negotiate an arrangement that benefits the country - a demonstration of strength, not weakness. Far better that, than to have no powers at all.

The current chaff around the terms of a future Sterling Area is intended to create the fear and uncertainty that has become the hallmark of the No campaign. It has, however, a secondary purpose for Westminster: it diverts attention from the unpalatable fact that unless agreement was reached it is the future rUK that would need a Plan B.

The current Scottish Government has rightly offered to negotiate in good faith a sensible and fair deal over the division and sharing of assets and liabilities (with, for example, the Bank of England being a shared asset, and the UK debt being a shared liability). It is stretching the bounds of reality too far to think that the rUK would reject that offer, and sensible people on the No and neutral sides accept this in private. What will happen after Independence? Exactly what is laid out in the White Paper; Scotland will continue to use the Pound Sterling.

However, let's also put the current No assertions under the spotlight. If the claim is that full fiscal, welfare and employment powers are ineffective or even unworkable within any kind of currency zone, (despite endless evidence to the contrary), then one can only assume the No campaign will not ever be offering any further meaningful devolution of fiscal powers within the current UK shared currency framework. By their own reckoning, this would be not only be unworkable, it would lead to some kind of disaster.

So, let's not be fooled by vague promises or more devolution to come. They only leave themselves the prospect of offering little or no change to current arrangements, and we know this will be very unpopular

If, however, by some unlikely set of circumstances, there were to shore over this contradiction, and attempt to guarantee a package of full fiscal autonomy within the UK, then for all intents and purposes, they will be agreeing with the Scottish Government, that you can change your economy for the better within a shared currency area - so long as you have the fiscal levers and control of revenue.

At that point, the fiscal rationale for independence would have been accepted by all parties. All that would be in question is the extent of a currency sharing framework - and a newly negotiated set of terms would be more in Scotland's interests than those currently imposed by Westminster. Again, this moves the debate in favour of Yes, and we can move on to demolishing the next scare story.

So, unwittingly, the No campaign has set itself a trap.

Primarily, it has likely signalled that it will never devolve any meaningful powers in future because it professes that these would be ineffective within any kind of a shared currency arrangement. However, if it does propose devolution of full fiscal powers, it is accepting the fiscal logic of the White Paper, despite its relentless attempts to rubbish it.

The first option would fly in the face of the demands of the majority of the people of Scotland. The second would expose why the official No campaign is, and should be, on the back foot - their arguments are more often than not disingenuous, inconsistent and made for short term gain.

As more and more people become engaged in the debate about Scotland's future, and see that Yes is willing and able to stand up to scrutiny, the more exposed the official No campaign's threadbare and increasingly shrill arguments become. Just as common sense will prevail over currency, more and more people will see the common sense of voting Yes.