The SNP has voted in favour of setting up a separate Scottish currency “as soon as practicable” if Scotland becomes independent.
A grassroots challenge changed a proposal by the SNP’s depute leader and Scotland’s Finance Secretary of enabling MSPs to vote on establishing a new Scottish currency within five years of leaving the UK, removing the stipulated time in favour of “as soon as practicable”.
The amended proposal was passed unanimously, marking a major shift in policy from the party’s stance in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum when then-first minister Alex Salmond said Scotland would continue to use the pound in a UK-wide currency union.
Campaign group Scotland in Union said the SNP had voted to “fast-track its plan to scrap the pound”.
Depute leader Keith Brown and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s plan was for Scotland to continue to use the pound in a transition period after leaving the UK while aiming for MSPs to vote on establishing a new Scottish currency by the end of the first term of an independent Parliament.
Urging delegates to back the plan, Mr Mackay said: “Our currency proposition is simple. On day one the currency will be the pound because it is our pound too.
“We know that keeping the pound in the early years of independence is the preferred choice of the Scottish people, it’s how people pay their bills, and they don’t want us to take that away from them. And no UK Government can threaten to do that.
“Our policy will only change when an independent, democratically elected Scottish Parliament, informed by an independent Scottish central bank that we would build, decides it is in our economic interests to do so.”
The amendment, by the SNP Dalkeith and District Branch, kept the vast majority of the plan from the senior SNP figures, but changed the proposal for a vote on establishing a new currency within five years of an independent Scotland to “enable the Scottish Parliament to authorise the preparation of a Scottish currency as soon as practicable after a vote for independence with the aim that the currency be ready for introduction as soon as practicable after independence day”.
Speaking about the amendment, delegate Timothy Rideout said the use of Sterling means monetary policy such as interest rates would all be set in London.
“We would not have real independence,” he said.
He also said the six tests from the SNP’s independence economic blueprint are “rubbish”, but party policy holds these must be met before an independent currency is introduced.
Other proposed changes to the currency proposal fell “substantially”, but Mr Rideout’s amendment was passed by 781 for to 729 against, with the latter including the party leadership.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon praised the debate and tweeted: “Amendment urges progress as quickly as practicable, and six tests to ensure solid foundation for decision are endorsed.
“We can move forward now with confidence to make the case for Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.”
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said following the vote: “Our party has a clear platform on which to campaign and win the case for independence.
“Our party now sees the balance of advantage in a careful, managed and responsible transition to an independent currency.
“It is our ambition to move to a new currency – this is a significant and important policy choice.
“Until this can be achieved, safely and securely, our currency will remain the pound sterling.”
He added: “This is a winning economic plan to take to the doorsteps – one which will achieve independence for Scotland.”
Pamela Nash, Scotland in Union chief executive of Scotland, said: “The SNP has voted to fast-track its plan to scrap the pound and put salaries, mortgages and pensions at risk.
“In a huge challenge to Nicola Sturgeon’s authority, members have snubbed her proposal and voted to complete this reckless act even sooner than she wanted.
“This will be deeply unpopular with the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland, with nearly three quarters in favour of keeping the pound.”