A case of the jitters
As the Scottish referendum nears, capital takes fright
BEFORE this week many investors and money managers had dismissed the possibility that Scotland would vote to leave the United Kingdom on September 18th as too remote to worry about. But then came a poll by YouGov for the Times newspaper showing that support for independence had risen sharply. And so all the well-rehearsed uncertainty over an independent Scotland's economic and financial arrangements is beginning to feel rather less theoretical, and more urgent.
Most jittery are banks, pension funds and other businesses with significant cross-border interests. Polls from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce have shown in the past that 10% of firms have considered moving away from Scotland if the country votes to go it alone, that a further 8% have definite plans to move and that 5% would expand their English operations or set up an English company. More such businesses have spoken openly as the referendum nears. Standard Life, an insurer, has said it has drawn up contingency plans to move south in the event of a “Yes” vote. It has been widely reported that Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Bank of Scotland, would shift its headquarters from Edinburgh to London as well.
Douglas Baillie, a pensions expert, says that clients from south of the border are ringing up, worrying about the future of their pension and life-assurance policies held in the likes of Standard Life, Scottish Widows (owned by Lloyds) and Aegon (formerly Scottish Equitable). All are Edinburgh-based and among the largest pension funds in Britain. English investors want to know whether they would still be paid in pounds, says Mr Baillie. They also worry that they would no longer have any sway through the ballot box over the tax regime governing their pensions. If Scotland votes to leave, warns Mr Baillie, the flow of pension money into the Scottish-based insurance companies from outside Scotland may well dry up. And there would be transfers out, to English-based companies. “They will run for cover, to a safe haven,” he says.
This fear of capital flight is most worrying. The share price of Lloyds slid slightly after YouGov's poll was released. The pound has fallen slightly, too, although this cannot be attributed entirely to worries over the referendum. One senior banker, Bill O'Neill of UBS Wealth Management, says that the markets have moved from pricing Scottish independence at a “one in six chance to about one in four”, and that some money has already been moved out of Scottish bank accounts and assets, mainly by clients with self-invested pensions worried about company stocks exposed to Scotland. But for the time being this is merely “precautionary”, he says. Another wealth manager, Bryan Johnston of Brewin Dophin, says his clients are also seeking advice on precautionary measures in case of a “Yes” vote. Investors are taking out derivatives to hedge against volatility in the pound and equities.
资金外流问题是最令人担忧的了。尤格夫（YouGov）的民意调查公布之后，劳埃德的股价有了轻微的下滑。英镑的汇率也有所下跌，尽管这不能完全归咎于民众对公投结果的担忧。一位高级银行家，来自瑞银财富管理的比尔·奥尼尔（Bill O'Neill）称，市场对苏格兰独立可能性的猜测已经从“六分之一上涨至四分之一”，同时还有许多资金以及资产早已从苏格兰的银行账户中转走，这些资产的持有人大多是自有投资个人养老金的人，他们十分担心公司股票将会完全受控于苏格兰。不过目前这样的行为也仅仅只是“预防措施”而言，他说道。另一位财富经理，来自Brewin Dophin的布莱恩·约翰斯顿（Bill O'Neill）称，他的客户同样也在咨询苏格兰独立后的预防措施。投资者纷纷拿出金融衍生工具来规避英镑和资产波动带来的风险。
If the prospect of a departure worries bankers and investors, of course, an actual one would cause enormous upheaval. Nationalists have set a date of March 2016 to separate from the United Kingdom. That is probably too ambitious. However long the negotiations take, they will be tortuous and ill-tempered. Almost everything, from currency to nuclear weapons, would be on the table, making for a fluid, uncertain picture. Expect the jitters to continue.
如果说光是对独立前景的预期就愁坏了银行家和投资者，那么等独立真正到来的一天定是会造成巨大的社会动荡。民族主义者们将2016年的3月设定为苏格兰脱离英国的独立日，这个日期可能太雄心勃勃了点。但是不管协商的过程会持续多久，其道路都会是崎岖的，也许辩论中途还会出现恶语相向。从货币到核武器，几乎所有的事情都将会摆上桌面谈，为了达成一个既不固定也不确定的共识而努力。唯一确定的是，动荡还会继续。译者： 朱大素 校对：徐珍