A well-designed sterling union will be needed if Scotland votes for independence
Oliver Harvey, George Saravelos 28 May 2014
Much ink has been spilled over Scotland’s currency options in the event of independence. This column argues that a breakup of the sterling area would be truly unprecedented. The sterling union is unique because it services a unitary state with a highly integrated and complex financial sector, an indivisible payments system, and an overlapping legal system. Politics aside, neither a unilateral nor a mutual break-up would be credible, leaving a negotiated currency union as the only option. However, as the Eurozone crisis demonstrates, a badly designed currency union could be exceptionally costly.
The currency options of an independent Scotland have become a crucial point of contention for both sides ahead of the September 2014 referendum. However, the debate has so far focused on the suitability of different regimes based on the optimal currency area framework or fiscal implications (Armstrong 2013). There has been little focus on the practical issues involved. This is problematic because a breakup of the sterling area would be historically unprecedented and uniquely complex.
Europe's nations and regions Monetary policy
monetary independence, currency union, Bank of England, Currency unions, Scotland, sterling, Scottish independence
The Scottish question
Angus Armstrong, Monique Ebell 26 October 2013
In the debate over Scottish independence, the question of how the UK’s assets and sovereign debt would be divided has received insufficient attention. This column argues that the size of Scotland’s debt obligations would be crucial to its optimal choice of currency. Under plausible assumptions, fiscal tightening would be required to return Scottish debt to sustainable levels, and a self-fulfilling rise in borrowing costs might tempt Scotland to leave the sterling currency union. A debt-for-oil swap might be mutually beneficial for a newly independent Scotland and the continuing UK.
In less than one year, on 18 September 2014, the Scottish electorate will vote on a question of historic significance – should Scotland remain in the UK, or should it become an independent country?
But what would an independent Scotland look like? We think that one important question that has not received nearly enough attention is debt. How will the existing UK government debt be divided between an independent Scotland and the continuing UK – assuming the remaining home nations constitute the continuing UK (Tierney 2013)?
Europe's nations and regions Macroeconomic policy
independence, debt, Currency unions, Scotland, sterling