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Salmond: Osborne's veto on currency sharing was a monumental error

The Chancellor's decision to rule out sharing currency with an independent Scotland will prove to be a "monumental error", First Minister Alex Salmond has declared.

Alex Salmond

The SNP leader focused on George Osborne's "dive bomb" as he tonight set out his own vision for links across the UK in a lecture hosted by the New Statesman in London.

Mr Osborne rejected the key Scottish Government proposal last month, just days after Prime Minister David Cameron made an appeal for Scots to vote to stay in the UK in the referendum on September 18.

Mr Salmond said: "In the last three weeks people in Scotland have seen an array of approaches from the UK Government - what they apparently call their Dambusters strategy.

"We were love-bombed from a distance by David Cameron, then dive-bombed at close range by George Osborne.

"The UK cabinet came up to Aberdeen but chose not to meet the members of the public.

"I believe that George Osborne's speech on sterling three weeks ago, the sermon on the pound, will come to be seen as monumental an error as Margaret Thatcher's sermon on the mound some 25 years ago.

"It encapsulates diktats from on high which are not the strength of the Westminster elite, rather they're a fundamental weakness.

"I want to make a contrast, and we shall make a contrast, that we shall seek to engage with the people of England on the case for progressive reform."

The Chancellor repeatedly referred to an independent Scotland being "foreign" to the rest of the UK, Mr Salmond said.

"Scotland will not be a foreign country after independence, any more than Ireland, Northern Ireland, England or Wales could ever be foreign countries to Scotland," he said.

"We all share ties of family and friendship, trade and commerce, history, culture, which have never depended on the parliament here at Westminster, and will endure and flourish long after independence."

Mr Salmond described Mr Osborne as a "day-tripping Conservative minister saying no to Scotland before flying back to Westminster".

For the Chancellor to put the rest of the UK in a position where it could be landed "with all of the UK's gargantuan national debt is at best reckless and at worst totally irresponsible", the First Minister said. "This current Dambusters rhetoric has betrayed an attitude as antiquated as it is unacceptable," he added.

"From the myopic perspective of the Westminster elite, Scotland is last among equals.

"Over the next months each and every time we hear another of these lofty interventions, telling us all the things we can't do, it will elicit a clear response in Scotland: that is, the days of governance by Westminster diktat are over.

"Don't let them tell you we can't build a better country."

Mr Salmond said the referendum was "about the people of Scotland" and not about politicians or David Bowie, who voiced his support for Scotland to remain part of the UK at this year's Brit Awards.

The First Minister went on: "On referendum day, all of the people of Scotland, not just for the first time in 300 years but the first time ever, will be truly democratically sovereign. Everyone will have an equal say in making the decision.

"And there will be a moment for everyone in Scotland, on referendum day, when they stand in the polling booth and take the future of the country into their own hands.

"That moment of opportunity, that moment of engaged sovereignty, the moment of clarity and for many reassessment will come in September. Let's call it Scotland's hour, because on that moment, and from then on, Scotland's future will be in Scotland's hands."

Mr Salmond said that an independent Scotland would be a "Northern Light" against the "dark star" of London and address the UK's imbalanced economy.

In his lecture, Scotland's Future in Scotland's Hands, the First Minister said the growth of Scotland as a "strong economic power" after independence would "benefit everyone - our closest neighbours in the north of England more than anyone".

"There would be a 'Northern Light' to redress the influence of the 'dark star' - rebalancing the economic centre of gravity across these islands," he said.

He added that, in the event of a vote for independence, "Scotland will become independent in more promising circumstances than virtually any nation in history".

"Nobody really doubts that an independent Scotland could be successful," he said.

"There's no doubt - none whatsoever - that Scotland could be an independent country. The question the people of Scotland will answer on September 18, is about whether we should be an independent country.

"That's essentially a choice between two futures.

"With one choice, Scotland is part of an increasingly imbalanced UK - with high social inequalities, growing regional disparities, and more often than not governments we didn't vote for.

"With the other choice, we have the powers we need to create a better country, to build the Scotland we want to see - the Scotland we seek."

Mr Salmond told the audience the UK has the highest levels of regional inequality of any country in the European Union.

"I'm First Minister of Scotland - meaning all of Scotland," he said.

"If the government I lead was responsible for such massive disparities, we wouldn't stand a chance of re-election.

"There's a growing realisation that wealth and opportunities are too concentrated, geographically as well as socially. UK Government policies are working for too few, and denying opportunities to too many. Britain is imbalanced."

He added: "What we want to do is to build a better future; to use our natural and human resources to create a fairer and more prosperous country.

"The fundamental truth at the heart of the case for independence is that the best people to do that - the very best people to make decisions about Scotland's future - are the people who live and work in Scotland."

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