In a special bonus episode of Holyrood Weekly, Finance Secretary Forbes fielded questions on her independence strategy, how to maintain and grow support for separation from the UK, and how to tackle the currency question ahead of indyref2.
After weeks of living out of a suitcase and travelling the country with a seven-month-old baby, Forbes spoke to The National on a rare day off the campaign trail from her home on the Isle of Skye as the SNP leadership contest heads into its final week.
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Asked how she would counteract claims that because Brexit was bad for the UK, independence would be worse, Forbes said it was “ironic” that the Tories have said because they “made a mess” of leaving the EU, Scotland would do the same with independence.
She said: “Actually, it was a choice by the Tories to make an absolute mess of Brexit and to choose the hardest Brexit possible, and completely undermine some of their very supporters if you think of the fishing industry.
“So we can take a different approach.”
Forbes said it is crucial to point out to voters that the goal of the SNP is to rejoin the single market and the benefits that would bring.
She explained: “So having access to that huge single market, but also having sort of streamlined and accessible relationships or trading relationships with the rest of the UK. Now I understand why Northern Ireland is quite unique in terms of its history, and so I think we use it as an example, sensitively.
“But it is an example that demonstrates it can be done, you can be part of the single market and also part of a trading relationship within the UK.
“So it’s possible, but a lot of what was done through Brexit, just layered more red tape on red tape, which was ridiculous considering one of the arguments for Brexit that was made was that it would reduce red tape.
“These things are choices, how you implement, for example, that trading relationship, those trading requirements, it’s a choice.
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“And if I hope we can do this in an amicable way, with the UK Government and the European Union, then it stands to reason that it would be a lot more straightforward than Brexit has been.”
The National also spoke to Forbes about her approach to the currency issue, which dominated the 2014 independence referendum campaign.
She said it would be a “massive disservice” to the movement to allow opponents to identify currency as a major battleground during indyref2.
“Now, I can’t think of another country that has become independent, which was persuaded to vote for independence, on the basis of currency,” she said.
The SNP leadership contest is heading into its final week
“They were persuaded to vote on the basis of having a fairer economy, an economy that worked for everyone.
“Currency for me comes after you’ve ensured that in the first period of time after a vote, your economy is stable.”
Forbes said the public’s concerns in the first few days after independence will be if they can still pay their bills, earn wages and take their pension.
“And they care a lot more about the value of that pension than they cared about what currency it’s paid in,” she added.
“So for me, the priority is stability, and prosperity in the first few days of an independent country, that is the argument that we need to make.
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“For most people, currency is an abstract political argument, whereas we need to boil it down to fairness, and prosperity. That’s not to dismiss it as an important issue that needs to be resolved.”
Forbes added that she stands by the approach to move to a Scottish currency as soon as possible, but in a way that “doesn’t undermine” economic stability in the first weeks and months of a new nation.
Fellow leadership contender Ash Regan was grilled by Sky’s Beth Rigby during a televised leadership debate on the institutions required to set up a new currency in an independent nation. Forbes said that while she has “respect” for her fellow contender’s position, setting up the infrastructure prior to a Yes vote would be “almost impossible”.
She added: “As somebody who was involved at the tail end of establishing the Scottish National Investment Bank, I know how challenging it was to get agreement from the UK Government on a number of areas with that bank.
Forbes has said Scottish independence can be ‘more straightforward’ than Brexit
“So building a central bank in advance is a tough ask, and obviously, we will need other things like a National Debt Office and so on, there are other areas.
“But we can certainly, you know, build up the skills, the resources when it comes to that. But I just think as the independence movement, yes, we need to have an answering currency. But we absolutely need to move on immediately to what independence means for you.
“And a stable, growing economy means you’re able to pay your bills in a way that you might not at the moment, it means you’re able to afford to live, and that’s the vision that we want to paint.”
Episode 10 of Holyrood Weekly and our second bonus show amid the SNP leadership race is now available to listen to on Spotify, the Omny streaming platform, and on our website below.