If you’ve been trading currencies long enough, then you’ll know that Scotland has been crying for independence before it was cool.
Heck, it even held a referendum back in 2014!
What happened in 2014?
The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, which set the arrangement for the referendum, was passed by the Scottish Parliament in November 2013 and was enacted as the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013.
After months of campaigning for both the Yes Scotland and Better Together camps, the Scots were asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And, with a voter turnout of 84.6% – the highest recorded for an election or referendum – the “remain” votes (55.3%) won over the “leave” voices (44.7%). At the time, threats of uncertainty and economic instability were enough to convince the Scots against a breakup from the U.K.
What has happened since then?
In a word, Brexit.
If you recall, Scotland had the biggest margin against a Brexit during the June 2016 EU referendum (despite what Donald Trump says). 62% voted to remain while only 38% voted to leave.
Fast forward a couple of months and the Scots who wanted to avoid economic uncertainty are facing the exact problem of exiting the EU. Not surprisingly, market bees are buzzing that the Scottish government is getting ready for another referendum.
Charles Grant, an adviser to the Scottish government’s Standing Council on Europe, shared “I believe the Scottish government is thinking very, very seriously about going for an independence referendum,” adding that “They feel they have enough emotion and momentum to overcome the economic downsides.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who published a draft bill for a second referendum back in October 2016, is adding to the pressure. She believes that the circumstances have changed, as those who have voted to remain in the U.K. also voted to be part of the EU.
She also reminded that “an independence referendum is very much an option on the table if it becomes clear that it is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s vital national interests.” Of course, it also doesn’t help that proposals of a separate Scottish deal within Brexit are reportedly not being “seriously considered” by the U.K. government.
How could a Scottish referendum affect the pound?
If you roll your charts back to 2014, you can see that fears over a possible separation really started weighing on the pound about two months before the actual vote.
GBP/USD managed to stay on its long-term uptrend until six weeks into the campaign period before it fell by a whopping 900+ pips just before the actual referendum.
We then saw a bit of retracement as soon as traders got a whiff that the “remain” votes would have it, but the pound’s downtrend eventually won out as other bearish factors played in.
How likely is a referendum this year?
Not very likely. Even the major players are estimating next year as the earliest opportunity for a referendum. And that’s if the Scottish government does decide to hold another one!
You see, Scotland might not even remain on the EU bloc even if it’s separated from the U.K. Just last Wednesday Britain’s Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell told the Scottish parliament that the country would have to leave the EU whether or not it became independent. Yikes!
Despite that, Sturgeon’s pro-EU Scottish National Party has warned that Theresa May’s push for a “hard Brexit” has pushed independence back on the agenda.