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English oppose shared currency with independent Scotland: poll

A majority of English people oppose Scotland continuing to use the pound if it votes to become independent in a September referendum, a survey showed on Wednesday (Aug 20).

LONDON: A majority of English people oppose Scotland continuing to use the pound if it votes to become independent in a September referendum, a survey showed on Wednesday (Aug 20).

The question of whether Scotland could keep the pound if it leaves the United Kingdom has emerged as a defining issue in the debate ahead of the referendum in under a month's time. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party insist Scotland should have a formal, euro-style monetary union with what would remain of the United Kingdom: England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the three main parties in Westminster reject this plan.

According to the Future of England Survey of more than 3,600 voters in England, 53 per cent of respondents disagreed with the idea of Scotland keeping the pound if it became independent. Only 23 per cent agreed that Scotland should continue to use the pound if it votes to go it alone on September 18. The poll found 15 per cent neither agreed or disagreed and 9 per cent said they did not know.

"It is not surprising that the majority of people in England do not support a currency union," said Jackie Baillie, a centre-left Labour party member of the Scottish parliament. "It wouldn't work for Scotland or the rest of the UK. For us in Scotland it would mean handing over control of our economy to what would then be a foreign country."

A spokesman for the Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney on Tuesday insisted keeping the pound would not be a problem. "An independent Scotland will keep the pound, which belongs as much to Scotland's as it does to the rest of the UK - and a formal currency union will also be in the overwhelming economic interests of the rest of the UK," the spokesman said.

Salmond came under criticism for not explaining what his alternative would be if Scotland were unable to keep the currency, in a TV debate earlier this month. Alternative options that have been discussed are a new Scottish currency, continuing to use the pound without the backing of the Bank of England as some countries use the US dollar, or eventually joining the euro.

Polls suggest the pro-independence campaign has gained support in recent weeks, though the 'No' campaign retains a strong lead.