(Adds detail, colour)
By Alistair Smout
EDINBURGH Aug 7 An independent Scotland cannot
be stopped from using sterling even if London refuses a formal
currency union, nationalist leader Alex Salmond said on
Thursday, just two days after he failed to win a televised
debate dominated by the issue.
The future currency of an independent Scotland remains one
of the major issues in the campaign just six weeks before Scots
decide in a Sept. 18 referendum whether to break their 307-year
union with England.
After a television debate in which Salmond was peppered with
questions by unionist Alistair Darling about his "Plan B" for
the currency given London's opposition to any currency union,
Salmond was again quizzed on Thursday about his plans.
At a question-and-answer session in the Scottish parliament,
Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont repeatedly asked
Salmond: "What is your Plan B?"
"It's Scotland's pound and we're keeping it," Salmond said
at the session, known as First Minister's Questions.
"We cannot be stopped from keeping the pound because it is
an internationally traded currency."
British ministers have repeatedly ruled out a currency
union. Finance minister George Osborne told Scots in February
that the pound was not like a CD collection which could be split
up when a couple separated.
In Tuesday's television debate, unionist campaign leader
Darling said Salmond was basically proposing using sterling like
Panama or Ecuador used the dollar.
Opinion polls show Scots are likely to reject independence,
though up to 1 million Scots are still undecided.
Salmond, who studied economics and history at university
before working as an economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland,
said an independent Scotland would have the option of using the
euro but that he did not support that.
He said Britain would end its opposition to a currency union
if Scots voted for independence because otherwise Scotland could
refuse to take on its share of the United Kingdom's 1.3 trillion
pounds ($2.2 trillion) worth of government debt.
"If you keep all of the assets of the United Kingdom, you
end up keeping all of the liabilities of the United Kingdom,"
Salmond told Scottish lawmakers.
In an attempt to reassure bondholders, the UK Treasury in
January promised to honour all UK government debt regardless of
whether Scotland votes for independence.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne has said that bond
investors would demand an independent Scotland pay punitively
high interest rates to borrow if it was reckless enough to
default on its liabilities.
The debate over sterling in the Scottish parliament came as
Salmond faced criticism by local media for flunking the first
U.S.-style television debate of the campaign.
The Daily Record, Scotland's second most popular newspaper,
said some Scottish National Party (SNP) lawmakers unhappy with
Salmond's performance had pushed for his deputy, Nicola
Sturgeon, to be put forward in any future such debates.
When asked about the reports, an SNP source denied there was
any backbench unrest. Sturgeon sat impassively beside Salmond
during the unusually lively debate in parliament, with jeering
from both sides.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)