Britain warns Scotland: Forget the pound if you break away

Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:04pm EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Britain will warn Scotland on Thursday it can't keep the pound if it votes for independence, its boldest attempt yet to scuttle a nationalist bid to break the 307-year-old union with England.

In the latest salvo of a choreographed campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, George Osborne will seek to play on Scottish fears of losing the pound to argue that secession would put Scots' prosperity at risk, pushing them into a tempest of volatility.

"The pound is one of the oldest and most successful currencies in the world," Osborne, Britain's finance minister and Prime Minister David Cameron's closest ally, will say in a speech in Edinburgh, according to his office.

"The UK economy is growing faster than any other advanced economy in Europe. And within the UK, Scotland is growing faster than the rest," Osborne will say in the speech which is due to begin at 0900 GMT.

Two sources familiar with the matter said Osborne will tell Scots they cannot keep the pound if they vote for independence in the September 18 referendum which will be open to about 4 million residents of Scotland over the age of 16.

In the speech, entitled "Scotland to keep the pound and the economic security that it brings", Osborne will echo some of Cameron's attempt last week to make the emotional and patriotic case for unity.

But the 42-year-old architect of Britain's drive to reduce spending will deliver a much harsher message to Scots: Leave the UK and risk losing the pound you have used for more than three centuries.

Osborne's warning will be repeated in future days by the finance chiefs of Britain's two other main parties: Labour's Ed Balls and the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander.   Continued...

Sample polymer five and ten GB pound banknotes are seen on display at the Bank of England in London September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Ratcliffe/pool