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Financial services react as Scotland rejects independence

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Fund managers, economists, and currency traders waited with bated breath for the outcome of the historic referendum in which Scotland would decide its future – whether inside or outside the UK.

As the result suggests 55 per cent of voters rejected a move to independence, the tone coming from the funds industry is one of relief, but several have warned sterling could remain vulnerable, and the political climate could put the brakes on any potential UK rate rise.    

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management:

“The campaigning is over and UK investors will welcome a reduction in the uncertainty of recent months. Tomorrow attention will turn again to the situation in Ukraine, the conflict in the middle east and the fragile European economy.
“Both sides of the independence debate now need to come together so that from today, Scotland moves forward united. Scotland has long been a world leader in business sectors such as oil and gas, whisky and investment and the task now is to grow  the rest of the economy with the strong support of politicians of all parties.
“As I have said before, whatever the outcome of the referendum, Scotland can have a prosperous future.”

Paras Anand, head of European equities at Fidelity Worldwide Investment:

“The eventual success of the unionist campaign can be credited to a reframing of the ‘No’ vote as a vote for home rule, underlining the fact that, with the emotion stripped away, the two sides of the argument had always been much closer than either would have cared to admit. 
“The mood surrounding the outcome of the vote may be short-lived as the focus turns quickly to the potential details and consequences of ‘devo max’. 
“Additionally, given the sense as we approached the referendum that the outcome was impossible to call, this perspective will carry over to the upcoming general election and, in the case of a Conservative government prevailing, the referendum on EU membership. Hence, we could expect to see and extended period of sterling weakness, especially relative to the US Dollar. 
“This, we believe would be a welcome development for the UK corporate sector overall given the large proportion of revenues and profits that are earned overseas and hence supportive for the markets overall. Moreover, while this atmosphere of political instability dominates, it is difficult to see how we will experience anything more than modest increases in short rates over the coming years which should, at the margin, be beneficial for the domestic economy overall.”

Mark Dampier, head of investment research, Hargreaves Lansdown

“From an investor’s perspective, it is a relief to resolve this uncertainty and the markets look to react accordingly. Investors can continue to manage their savings, investments and pensions just as they did before the referendum. The UK remains one of the most stable countries in the world in which to invest and conduct business.

“As a rule, investors should not make knee jerk reactions to these sorts of matters. Companies have a tendency to survive whatever politicians and economics throw at them, just look at Europe as an example. Big falls and rises are often come close together and investors on the side-lines risk missing out.

It remains business as usual – it is highly unlikely there will be any real devolution work done until after the general election, there will be plenty of time for companies to adjust to any changes, investors have no need to make quick decisions based in all probability on immediate analysis.

“In the longer term, there may be changes to investment rules and practices following further devolution but, for now, the party conferences and the forthcoming general election will be the main focus of attention.”

Tom McPhail, head of pensions research, Hargreaves Lansdown

“This news is likely to boost confidence in the UK economy. In turn this could lead to earlier expectations of interest rate rises. However, such questions have been fiendishly difficult to predict in recent years. Investors who decide they want to buy an annuity should make sure they shop around for the best possible terms, as it can boost their retirement income by 20 per cent. Anyone who prefers to defer buying an annuity, whether for a few months or for the long term, can use a low cost drawdown plan to access their retirement savings.”

Azad Zangana, European economist, Schroders

“The news will come as a relief for investors and financial markets, reflected by an early morning bounce in GBP versus EUR and USD. The prospects of months of messy negotiations, uncertainty over the division of national assets and debt, and the currency arrangements of an independent Scotland had been weighing on the confidence of investors over the past few weeks, especially as polls had tightened.

“Westminster is now expected to devolve more power to Scotland after a late promise by the leaders of the major Westminster parties. Variability in tax rates may introduce distortions at a micro level, but should have little impact to the overall macro-economy. The result, along with further devolution, should mean that another referendum is very unlikely in the foreseeable future. However, long-term investors will be minded of the risk of separation and may demand a premium for undertaking fixed asset investments in Scotland.

“Continuation of the union also means the risk of UK exit from the European Union has been reduced, although does remains significant. Scottish residents are more in favour of remaining in the EU, compared to the rest of the UK where the majority favour an exit. Overall, major disruption has been avoided and focus can now return to building on the strong economic recovery in progress. The Bank of England is now likely to press ahead with raising interest rates early next year in the absence of political uncertainty.”