BoE's Carney to visit Scotland as independence campaign heats up

LONDON Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:32am EST

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LONDON Jan 15 (Reuters) - Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will travel to Scotland this month where he is expected to make his first comments on issues relating to September's referendum on Scottish independence with the economy ranked as the key issue by voters.

Carney is due to make a speech to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Edinburgh on Jan. 29, according to the association's website. It will be his first visit to Scotland since he took over the British central bank last July.

Carney has so far declined to be drawn on proposals by Scottish nationalists that an independent Scotland should retain the Bank of England as the lender of last resort and the pound in a currency union with Britain.

The governor, who is Canadian, said in December that the Bank would provide "technical, objective, dry analysis of some of these issues in due course".

Opinion polls show only about one third of Scots are in favour of ending a 307-year-old union with England but pro-union campaigners have warned against complacency ahead of the Sept. 18 vote with a significant number of Scots still undecided.

Scotland's economic prosperity has become a key battleground ahead of September's vote with First Minister Alex Salmond arguing independence would free his nation of five million people from decades of economic mismanagement.

Official data released on Wednesday showed the Scottish economy grew 0.7 percent in the third quarter of 2013, its best showing since early 2010, but a tad behind Britain's 0.8 percent growth over the same period.

The 0.7 percent expansion from July through September comprised a broad-based upturn across services, construction and production.

"Today's strong growth figures follow recent labour market statistics which show that Scotland is outperforming the UK as a whole on unemployment and employment rates," said John Swinney, finance secretary in the nationalist-controlled devolved Scottish government.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the figures showed the British government's long term economic plan is working.

"Scotland's economy is successful and stronger as part of the UK with its security, scale and influence," said Carmichael, part of Britain's Conservative-led government that opposes Scottish independence.

Scotland's economy accounts for about 9 percent of the UK economy which is the third largest in Europe and sixth globally, according to World Bank rankings for 2012.

Although nationalists are trailing in the polls, Britain sought on Monday to head off any bond market jitters ahead of the September vote by promising to honour all 1.2 trillion pounds ($2.2 trillion) of UK government debt if Scots vote for independence.

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