Goldman Sees Severe Pound Selloff on Scots Breakaway Vote

A win for Scottish nationalists seeking a breakaway from the U.K. may have “severe” consequences in the short term and spark a pound selloff, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Kevin Daly.

“The uncertainty about whether Scotland will leave the sterling monetary union could create” a crisis similar to the one that almost splintered the euro area, Daly said today in an interview with Anna Edwards on Bloomberg Television’s “On The Move” program in London. “In the long run, there’s no reason to believe why Scotland couldn’t prosper as an independent country. Our concerns are predominantly about the short-to-medium term, but those concerns are pretty severe.”

As Scotland enters the final days of campaigning before the Sept. 18 plebiscite, the currency market is taking notice after a YouGov Plc poll for the Sept. 2 editions of the Times and Sun newspapers showed the pro-U.K. camp leading by six percentage points once undecided voters are stripped out, from being 14 points ahead in the last YouGov poll conducted on Aug. 12-15.

After initially dismissing the referendum, investors “realize that this is going to be disruptive in an economic sense if the Yes camp win,” John Normand, head of foreign-exchange and international-rates strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co., told Edwards and Mark Barton on the “Countdown” program. “People realize increasingly that the undecided camp is big enough to swing this” and that is why “volatility is picking up,” he said.

Volatility Surge

Implied one-month volatility in sterling against the dollar surged 23 percent after the survey was released, the most since 2008. Sterling has declined since then and today fell 0.2 percent to $1.6432 today, having reached $1.6440 yesterday, the weakest since Feb. 12.

The question of whether a go-it-alone Scotland will be able to keep the pound in partnership with the remaining parts of the U.K. has dominated the independence debate with all the major parties in Westminster saying they would oppose it. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has argued they would change their view once negotiations began after a Yes vote and has said Scotland would refuse to pay its share of the U.K. national debt if they didn’t give in.

The aftermath of a vote for separation “will be absolutely chaotic,” Andy Brough, executive director at Schroder Investment Management in London, said on Bloomberg Television. “Companies will have to sit down and rational thinking will have to be made.”

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