What the Financial Sector Thinks of the Scottish Referendum

RBS

À quelques jours du référendum sur l’indépendance de l’Écosse, les géants Lloyds et la Royal Bank of Scotland, qui jusqu’à là étaient restés silencieux, ont annoncé qu’ils quitteraient l’Écosse en cas de séparation…

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After a few polls revealed that the ‘yes’ could win on Thursday’s referendum, Lloyds and the RBS announced on September 11th that they would move their HQs to England if the polls proved right. What do those banks fear? First of all, most of their clients are not Scottish but English. Also, the banks have been attacked on the stock market since those polls broke the news and the pound lost ground against the dollar. They fear massive outflows of capital too. 130 men signed platforms to back the Better Together campaign, among them representatives from HSBC or BHP Billiton. The currency issue is one of the main concerns for those executives.

Indeed, the Yes Scotland leaders haven’t given a clear answer to the currency question: would Scotland create a brand new currency, join the euro zone or keep the pound, which would imply that London would still have powers over Edimburgh – at least economically – because the Bank of England would still set the interest rates. Furthermore,that would be paradoxical given their craving for full sovereignty.

In the financial sector, Scotland’s independence would create a true muddle, and only 1 out of five companies have worked out a backup plan. Since the United Kingdom represents 75% of Scotland’s exports and Scotland is Britain’s second trade partner, independence would truly affect the relationships but especially it would worsen the UK’s trade deficit. London and Edimburgh would have to negotiate on every subject. Even though Alex Salmond claims that the transition would only take 18 months, experts like Robert Hazell argue that it would take at least one extra year, and the Scots are undoubtedly not going to find anything to win in this situation.

Gabrièle DELTOUR & Céline GAY

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