04 September 2014

Panic stations?

We live in interesting times.  The Guardian reports:
David Cameron will face calls to take the unprecedented step in modern peacetime of postponing next year's UK general election by 12 months in the event of a vote for Scottish independence to avoid the prospect of a Labour government that would depend on Scottish MPs.
Amid warnings of a "constitutional meltdown" after a yes vote, which would place severe personal political pressure on the prime minister, a growing number of Tory MPs are saying they will call for legislation to be introduced to postpone the general election. It would be the first time since 1940, a year into the second world war, that a general election would have been postponed.
One member of the government said: "You would see very quickly after the referendum calls for a delay in the election. You simply could not have an election that would produce a Labour government supported by Scottish MPs if the Tories had a majority in the rest of the UK. So you would say: OK Alex Salmond wants to negotiate the break up by March 2016. So we will have a general election on the new Britain in May 2016."
Far from sure that the English people would be content to allow a discredited Prime Minister with a shaky majority to negotiate the terms of Scotland's departure from the Union.  Bearing in mind that an independence bill would need to be approved by both Commons and Lords, I would have thought that a delay to the general election would need to be accompanied by the establishment of a government of national unity (oh, the ironies!), comprising all three UK parties and led by someone relatively uncontroversial (William Hague perhaps).

Meanwhile, the City of London is waking up:
,,, amid the unresolved question of an independent Scotland's long-term currency arrangements, some economists say the Bank's first priority might be to ensure that Scottish banks do not suffer a rush of withdrawals.
Thinktank Capital Economics says: "We would not be surprised if the Bank of England's contingency preparations, which [governor] Mark Carney highlighted two weeks ago, included capital controls on the Scottish financial sector to prevent a run on Scottish banks immediately after the referendum result was announced."
Bankers themselves, however, wonder how such a policy could be implemented in practice: their systems are not designed to disallow transfers between Scottish and English branches.
To put it more bluntly, how to prevent English (and Welsh and Northern Irish) account-holders in  NatWest, Lloyds and Halifax from withdrawing money from their accounts?  Difficult, maybe even impossible?

An easier solution would be for RBS and Lloyds to move their HQs south of the border, thereby becoming English banks at a stroke.  (Though that also has implications ,,,)


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