Independence is a 'greater threat' to Scotland's economy than Brexit

Scottish independence poses a greater threat to Scotland’s booming financial services sector than Brexit, according to a report from the University of Strathclyde.

Jeremy Peat, former chief economist at RBS, and Owen Kelly, head of industry group Scottish Financial Enterprise, warned that the “uncertainties” caused by independence “look even greater” than those caused by Brexit.

They say that “nearly every provider of financial services in Scotland” serves the UK market, rather than the EU market, and that the impact of separation would therefore be severe.

A majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the June referendum, by 62% to 38%, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for a second referendum on Scottish independence, arguing that Brexit represents an existential threat to the country’s economy.

But Peat and Kelly say in the report — titled “Brexit and the Scottish Financial Services Sector” — that Brexit “does not take us to a case for Scottish independence in the EU.”

They stress the importance of the UK retaining”passporting rights” after Brexit. Passporting is the system by which British companies in the sector can trade freely across the whole of the single market using their local licences.

But even if Britain does lose passporting right, the authors say: “The risks to relationships for the financial sector with counterparts and customers of one type or another in the rest of the UK would intuitively appear at least as great as the risks from a ‘hard’ Brexit while remaining within the UK.”

Scotland’s financial services industry contributes around £8 billion a year to the Scottish economy, and employs around 180,000 people directly and indirectly — that represents a twelfth of Scotland’s workforce.

Another report released last week warned that the prospect of another referendum was damaging business demand for office and shop space, suggesting a lack of business confidence in the case for independence.

The majority of Scots still appear to favour remaining in the UK, even with the potential economic damage that could result from Brexit.

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