Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 17:40 UK

SNP European divisions laid bare

Euro coin
The SNP's policy is to hold a referendum on Euro membership

Divisions within the SNP about joining the Euro have been laid bare at the party's annual conference.

Delegates in Inverness threw out calls to dump the SNP's commitment to a referendum on Euro membership.

During a passionate debate, Finance Secretary John Swinney, who argued for a referendum, clashed with Nationalist MEP Alyn Smith.

Mr Smith urged conference to drop the commitment, saying the referendum qualification was "too conditional".

The debate heard views from those who favoured joining without a referendum, to those who wanted to keep the referendum proviso, while some argued that an independent Scotland should not join the Euro at all.

'Moral failure'

The attempt to remove the referendum qualification was led by delegate Ian Blackford, from Skye, who told delegates membership of the euro may be necessary for Scotland to argue in Europe for "reform" of financial regulation.

"If we are independent and tied to sterling, we will pay the price in higher interest rates while being exposed to a currency that has a history of suffering from wild fluctuations," he said.

SNP national secretary Duncan Ross claimed the referendum proviso amounted to procrastination and "the politics of moral failure".

But SNP conference stalwart Gerry Fisher went further, declaring: "We don't want a referendum on the euro."

Mr Swinney said he was in favour of the Euro, but told the conference: "On certain fundamental issues of rights and the constitution, we have to defer to the people.

"These are not our rights to give away as parliamentarians, they are the people's rights."

Making the argument to remove the referendum proviso, Mr Smith said: "I think we can be too conditional about what we want an independent Scotland to look like, too conditional about public opinion, too conditional about what sort of orientated economy we want to see."

"We are a Nordic, European country, currently part of a debt-laden sub-prime toxic assent currency we don't want to be part of and which is not serving our interests well."

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