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Scotland ‘would keep pound’ in years after independence

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Andrew Wilson has handed over his growth commission report to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

An independent Scotland would keep the pound for at least 10 years under proposals set out by the SNP’s Growth Commission.

The country could then move towards introducing its own currency once a series of economic tests had been met.

The commission was set up two years ago to build a new economic case for independence following the Brexit vote.

Opposition parties say the SNP’s pursuit of independence is doing nothing for Scotland’s economy.

The 354-page analysis document – which has been billed as a “new case for optimism” – also says attracting more immigrants to Scotland is crucial.

Its aim is to “restart the debate” on independence, with the long-awaited report being discussed by special assemblies of SNP members around the country in the run-up to the party’s autumn conference.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to set out her thinking on when there might be a second independence referendum in the autumn, once there is more clarity over Brexit.

What does the report say about currency?

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The Scottish government wanted a formal currency union with the rest of the UK if Scotland voted for independence in 2014

The commission, which was headed by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, says that Scotland should keep Sterling for the first few years after independence in order to provide certainty and stability, with the Bank of England continuing to set interest rates and other monetary policies.

But it stresses that this would be done without a formal currency union.

It also says that a “future choice to establish a Scottish currency could be considered” once the economy was “on track to the sustainable high-performance position our ambitions require”.

And the report says that “unless those tests were met and a decision to change was made, our currency would remain the pound sterling”.

The SNP proposed a formal currency union with the rest of the UK ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.

But a formal arrangement was ruled out by then-Chancellor George Osborne in a move that was widely seen as being a key factor in Yes losing the vote.

At the time, the Treasury’s top civil servant, Sir Nicholas Macpherson “strongly” advised Mr Osborne against agreeing to the currency union proposal, which he said would have been “fraught with difficulty”.

But the SNP argues that an independent Scotland would not need the permission of the UK government to continue using Sterling.

What else does the Growth Commission recommend?

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Mr Wilson fears current UK immigration policy could be damaging to Scotland

The report includes detailed plans to help fund continuing UK debt to promote “respect and good order” towards the rest of the United Kingdom.

Historic debts would fall to the rest of the UK – but Scotland would contribute about £5bn a year to meet debt commitments and fund international aid.

Mr Wilson studied 12 successful small countries around the world, with Denmark, Finland and New Zealand highlighted as examples to take lessons from.

The report sets out details of a “come to Scotland” campaign to drive immigration and population growth

This would include tax relief for highly skilled migrant workers to attract the “best and brightest” talent, measures to encourage international graduates to stay in Scotland, and a new visa system modelled on “the most efficient and easy to use in the world”.

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Opposition leaders have already been critical of the report

Mr Wilson warned of a “real danger” that current UK policies could see the working population fall, and said Scotland has a “great opportunity to strike a completely different tone”.

He said: “Growing our working population and, through it, our economy is perhaps the greatest national challenge we have – and is made even more urgent by Brexit and the threat it poses to our working age population.

“Scotland needs more migration to drive our economy forwards and we need to extend a friendly welcome to international talent.

“Our package is designed to attract people to Scotland to study and to stay here, to build a career a fulfilling future for themselves. We need investors, entrepreneurs and a skilled workforce to achieve our potential.”

The report also includes policy ideas to grow the economy through greater participation in the labour market and improved productivity.

What do the other parties say?

The Scottish Conservatives said the Scottish government was failing to grow the Scottish economy because it was “obsessing about independence”.

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Of course we want to attract the best and brightest to come and live and work in Scotland. But you don’t do that with high taxes and you don’t do it by trying to tear up the UK.

“Four years on from the independence referendum, it really is time for the SNP to stop building castles in the sky, and to get on with the job of building a stronger Scotland now.”

Scottish Labour said that there was “no case for separation” that matched the party’s own vision of “an anti-austerity, pro-public ownership economy”.

Leader Richard Leonard said: “The real divide in the UK is not between the people of the four nations – it’s between the richest and the rest of us. Rather than building borders between Scotland and England we should be building homes, schools, and hospitals.”

The pro-independence Scottish Greens said many of those who voted No in 2014 “will no doubt be open to the case for independence, especially when this report is compared to the bleak, post-Brexit economic analysis papers, which we have seen, from the UK government.”

But Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said there was “nothing hopeful or optimist about inflicting yet more division and economic risk on our country by separating us from the UK”.

Scotland ‘would keep pound’ in years after independence}

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