Scotland's Salmond attacks London on banks, independence
The Scottish premier has called Alistair Darling's resistance against EU supervision of banks as "extraordinary" in light of Anglo-American faults in financial regulation.
Brussels – Scottish premier Alex Salmond on Tuesday slammed as "incompetent" Britain's readiness to torpedo meaningful Europe-wide financial industry supervision.
The head of the devolved Edinburgh government, who on Monday published plans aimed at taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom and into the European Union on its own right, said British banking controls are "inadequate" at every level.
Salmond is a former economist whose hopes of breaking up Britain have stalled during a financial crisis which saw both the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) rescued by the London government.
But as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's chancellor, Alistair Darling, throws up a succession of obstacles to plans for three new EU watchdogs to supervise banks, insurers and markets at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, Salmond said London was in no position to "preach."
"An extraordinary argument"
"If you allow two major institutions to drift into near insolvency because your supervision is inadequate, the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury are incompetent, and you create this near financial meltdown, that you then should argue that only you should continue to manage these things in the future, is quite an extraordinary argument to me," Salmond told AFP.
Brown has made it a personal priority to rein in EU proposals to regulate financial services from Brussels, a source said last week, and Salmond says his lifelong rival from the pit of Scottish politics is ignoring some home truths.
Salmond said that the "suspicion" that Brown's Labour administration and their Conservative rivals have "of European regulation is astonishing given that quite clearly the biggest single faults in financial regulation were in the Anglo-American financial sectors."
He added, "There is a contradiction between Gordon Brown's appeals for international action and what the Chancellor is about to do tomorrow.
"A whole division of cavalry was driven through the regulations governing the City of London ... I don't think the UK is in any position to preach."
Appetite for independence
Salmond was in Brussels to launch a week of Scots-themed events and meet top EU officials including Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
His trip comes at a time when polls suggest that the weakness of the Scottish financial sector has stifled appetites for separation from the rest of Britain.
His Scottish National Party runs a minority government and lacks support in the Scottish Parliament to force a planned referendum next year, although opposition within Britain's three main parties – the opposition in Scotland – could recede once the country exits from recession.
A YouGov poll of 1,141 Scots for the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper last week found that 29 percent would vote for Scottish independence, although results vary significantly according to questions asked.
Salmond said Scotland needs greater powers precisely so it can pull all-important economic levers, and said reaction in London to his plans was no different to that when Ireland or India first sought to leave the British Empire.
"They find the whole idea incomprehensible," Salmond said after Brown's spokesman termed his approach "narrow nationalism."
"(But) they found the idea of independence for India or Ireland incomprehensible."
Salmond said the choice for Scots is between "a wee bit, a lot or full control" of its destiny, in good times or bad.
He cited what he said is the most ambitious climate-change commitment of any developed country – a 42 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 – bemoaning the absence of any right of representation at United Nations-sponsored world talks in Copenhagen next week.
Salmond also cited London's determination to pursue a nuclear policy, whereas Edinburgh – with planning laws allowing the prevention of new nuclear power stations on its territory – prefers a strategy based on renewables.
AFP / Expatica
Photo credit: AFP