Leaders of the UK’s three main political parties all fly to Scotland today in a last-ditch attempt to persuade Scots north of the border to vote against independence in just eight days’ time.
David Cameron, along with Labour’s Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, made the unprecedented move of cancelling Prime Minister’s question time later this morning to concentrate on campaigning against independence.
The decision follows a poll swing in favour of the Yes campaign and growing evidence of concern among businesses north of the border. Fear over the consequences of a Yes vote is resulting in vast amounts of cash being shifted to England, with wealth managers reporting growing concerns among clients, City A.M. understands.
Economists are warning that the problem will get worse if Scots vote for independence next Thursday. “In our opinion, Scotland would fall into a deep recession,” analysts at Credit Suisse said yesterday. “We believe deposit flight is both highly likely and highly problematic, with banks’ assets at 12 times GDP.”
As the campaign stepped up a notch yesterday, a number of international financial institutions also warned of the risks associated with independence. Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said in a speech that Scotland would not be allowed to keep the pound as it would be “incompatible with sovereignty”.
Elsewhere, John Griffith-Jones, the chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, said the watchdog had contingency plans in place to deal with what it believed would be a flood of phone calls from worried businesses if Scotland voted Yes in eight days.
Jitters have already crept into the Scottish housing market, with reports of stalling activity weighing down on prices. In the event of Scotland losing the pound, borrowing costs – and therefore mortgage payments – could shoot up.
In a bid to turn the tide, the Prime Minister will make a speech this morning in Edinburgh, during which he will implore voters to stick with the United Kingdom and reject separation. Although both Clegg and Miliband are also flying north today, none of the three leaders will be appearing together to avoid fuelling Alex Salmond’s claim that Westminster will dictate Scotland’s future, no matter which party is in power.
Yesterday, Labour’s Ed Miliband, whose party has led the Better Together campaign against Salmond, called on local government leaders around the UK to show their support for the union by flying the Saltire flag. A bid to raise the blue and white Scottish national emblem above Downing Street nearly ended in disaster when the flag fell off the pole as workmen sought to erect it.
In an emotional speech yesterday, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown again set out the timetable for greater devolution to Holyrood, agreed by all political parties. Both Labour and the Conservatives called on party members to drop everything and phone Scottish voters to beg them not to vote Yes, while Salmond accused the Westminster parties of “total and utter panic”.
Kate McCann, Julian Harris