POLITICS

Independence Would Be 'Disastrous' For Scotland's Banks, Says Report

07/08/2014 22:43 BST | Updated 07/08/2014 22:59 BST
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 30: In this photo illustration, a man holds Scottish one pound bank notes on January 30, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, said yesterday during a speech in Edinburgh, that an independent Scotland would need to give up some power to make a currency union with the rest of the UK work. (Photo Illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The creation of an informal currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK means Scottish banks could not be sure they would be bailed out in the event of another financial crisis, according to a new report.

Dollarisation - also referred to as sterlingisation - would have consequences for Scotland's financial sector, its capacity to export financial services, its new balance of payments and its economic prosperity, the research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found. Pro-unionist campaigners seized on the report as proof that independence would be "disastrous" for Scotland's banking sector.

The Scottish government favours a formal currency union with the rest of the UK in the event of a Yes vote, which would see the Bank of England retained as its lender of last resort, but the UK Government has already dismissed this option.

Dr Angus Armstrong and Dr David McCarthy, from NIESR, have looked at the options for an independent Scotland to be lender of last resort to Scottish institutions in a financial crisis, if it was to opt for the possible "Plan B" of sterlingisation.

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They considered three options: creating a new Scottish Insurance Fund, negotiating a commercial lender of last resort line of credit with the Bank of England, or having the European Banking Union assist with lender of last resort, but suggest these may "involve terms that are unlikely to be acceptable to an independent government".

"Finding a credible solution to the lender of last resort problem is important if Scotland ends up with dollarisation," the report states.

Part of the solution may require Scotland to have its own currency and a functioning central bank, it says.

The authors also considered the impact of bringing an end to the existing monetary union in the UK.

The report states: "An independent Scotland would require a financial border to create its own balance of payments accounts.

"This would include cross-border trade and capital flows to and from the rest of the world and the rest of the UK.

"Under dollarisation, the balance of payments would become the key barometer of whether the Scottish economy prospers or declines."

Banking groups such as RBS will have to decide which side of the financial border to register, the experts said.

"Without a credible solution to the lender of last resort, the Prudential Regulatory Authority is likely to require systemically important banks using sterling to be domiciled in the UK," the report states.

"Shareholders, customers and rating agencies are also all likely to prefer systemically important banks to be located in the UK."

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Commenting on the report, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "This report from NIESR confirms that borrowing the pound would be damaging for a separate Scotland's economy and a terrible choice for Scotland's financial sector, which has been built up over the last 200 years.

"The First Minister yesterday described sterlingisation as 'quite attractive', even though his own Fiscal Commission has said that it 'is not likely to be a long-term solution'.

"This report shows that the Plan B Salmond now seems to be flirting with would be disastrous for the Scottish economy. The only way for Scotland to keep the pound as we have now is to vote No."

See also:

Scottish Independence Would Trigger Economic Crisis Worse Than Banking Collapse, Danny Alexander Says

Scottish Independence Is An 'Opportunity' For Scotland's Banks, Says Ex-RBS Boss

Independent Scotland Would Need IMF Bailout If Banks Went Under

Scottish Independence 'Makes No Economic Sense', Warn Experts

The report has been published as Alex Salmond has come under renewed pressure to announce his "Plan B" on currency if a formal monetary union is not negotiated.

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