An independent Scotland could create its own currency within months of leaving the UK, a contender for SNP leadership has said.
The currency issue has remained one of the key issues in the debate around independence since well before the 2014 referendum on the issue.
Publishing a paper on the issue last year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would move to a new currency, but that the transition would take time.
The country would be required to set up a central bank, which she said would happen on the first day after an independence vote, but the country would have to continue to use sterling for some time after that.
Ms Sturgeon told journalists it would be “irresponsible” to set out a timetable for a move to the new currency.
But Ash Regan – who had not yet resigned from the government in protest over gender reforms when the paper was published – said it would take just months to move to a Scottish currency, if efforts were made ahead of independence to start the process.
“I think Scotland cannot be credible independently if we’re at the mercy of another country’s currency and we’re not able to control that,” she told ITV Border.
“I think we need to be moving to our own currency as soon as it’s practical.”
Pushed on a timescale she said the switch could happen “a couple of months” into independence.
“If I become the leader, I am going to start working on what steps we can take now, while we are not independent, in order to build the infrastructure which would let us move to a Scottish currency within months of becoming independent,” she added.
Asked if Scotland currently has the powers to set up a central bank, Ms Regan said: “I’m going to look to see what steps we can take under the devolution settlement, but I’m very clear we would need to get that infrastructure in as soon as possible.”
The comments were lambasted by the Scottish Tories, with the party’s constitution spokesman saying the candidate was “living in a fantasy world”.
“The idea that an SNP Government which is six years late delivering two ferries could set up a Scottish currency within a couple of months is for the birds,” he said.
“Years after the SNP were handed control over social security payments, at their own request, many of these benefits are still being administered by the UK Government. Yet we’re supposed to believe they could get a new currency up and running in a few weeks.
“By making such an outlandish claim, Ash Regan merely undermines her own credibility as a would-be First Minister.”