Scottish National party delegates have called for preparations to begin for a central bank to be set up after independence from the UK, a move seen as challenging the SNP leadership’s relatively cautious currency strategy.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said an independent Scotland would continue to use the UK pound for “as long as necessary”, an approach SNP chiefs believe would promote economic stability and reassure voters.
However, many members want a commitment to the rapid introduction of a new Scottish currency. The issue has added to frustration at what some in the party see as Sturgeon’s overly cautious approach on how hard to push for a second referendum on leaving the UK.
Delegates at an online SNP conference on Sunday overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the party to start work on legislation for a central bank that would act as Scotland’s “monetary authority” after independence.
Supporters of the resolution said continued use of the UK pound, an approach widely knows as “sterlingisation”, would deny an independent Scotland essential freedom of economic action.
“I hope the sterlingisation zombie now has a stake through the heart,” tweeted delegate Tim Rideout after the resolution was passed without opposition from party leaders.
Asked after the vote, the SNP said: “The currency of an independent Scotland will continue to be the pound sterling until a new currency can be safely and securely established in the interests of the whole economy. A Scottish currency will be introduced as soon as practicable after independence.”
At the low-key online national conference, the party’s second in three months, SNP leaders have sought to focus attention on the failings of a UK government hit by revelations Conservative backbenchers earned millions in additional income from second jobs.
Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader, said independence offered Scotland an escape route from Tory “sleaze, cronyism and corruption”.
John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister, denounced Westminster as “rotten to the core”, while Keith Brown, SNP deputy leader, said independence would save Scotland from a political elite that had “trashed the UK’s global reputation”.
The woes of the Johnson administration have offered the SNP a distraction from criticism of its own record in government on areas such as health, education and ferry services to Scottish islands.
However, some SNP members are dismayed by the lack of progress towards any rerun of the 2014 independence referendum, in which voters in Scotland backed remaining in the UK by 55-45 per cent.
With Johnson making clear he will not approve a second referendum, the Scottish government plans to pass a bill paving the way for one and challenge the prime minister to try to block it in the courts.
But SNP leader and first minister Sturgeon has so far declined to say when she will put the bill to parliament and on Sunday insisted her priority was the coronavirus pandemic.
“If I stood up in front of my party . . . and told them that I alone in the world could see when this Covid pandemic was going to end, then people would look at me a bit askance,” Sturgeon said on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.
Analysts say Sturgeon has political reasons not to rush. Recent polls show a consistent lead for remaining in the UK. The SNP has also yet to revise its case for independence following the collapse of oil revenues since 2014 and the UK’s departure from the EU.