The British government has no contingency plans for a vote in favour of Scottish independence just three weeks from the historic referendum on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom.
Opinion polls still indicate a modest majority of Scottish voters in favour of keeping the 307-year-old union with England but the final vote on September 18 is still expected to be close.
One survey last week suggested the unionists’ campaign’s lead had halved following a televised debate where Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party first minister, was seen to have defeated Better Together spokesman Alistair Darling.
Analysts at UBS have predicted that a Yes vote would open a prolonged period of constitutional uncertainty, a slump in business confidence, a fall in the value of the pound and even a detrimental impact on the FTSE 100.
Negotiations would begin in earnest over issues such as oil reserves, outstanding debt and shared institutions, the bank said. Major questions would arise over issues such as what would happen to the UK’s Scotland-based nuclear submarines.
The biggest point of conflict would be the currency, with the SNP insisting that an independent Scotland could keep the pound but the Conservative and Labour parties denying this would be the case.
David Cameron’s official spokesman said on Monday that officials had no detailed plans on what would happen in the event of a surprise Yes vote.
“No such work (is being) undertaken,” the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters when asked if the government had produced contingency plans for a Yes vote. “The government’s entire focus is on making the case for the UK staying together.”
Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP in Westminster, accused the government of complacency. “This is extraordinary complacency from Westminster with less than three weeks to go to the vote – they are doing a disservice to people north and south of the border,” he said.
Mr Robertson said the race was becoming “very tight”, according to the polls.
“Westminster politicians are only interested in scare stories and negativity – not making sensible decisions and plans in the very likely event of a Yes vote.”
Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, has by contrast revealed that Threadneedle Street does have contingency plans for a split.
UBS has previously warned that British banks face a serious risk of depositors at Scottish institutions shifting their money south of the border after a Yes vote.
Asked about the UBS report, Mr Carney – speaking in August – made clear that a vote for independence would not affect the central bank’s commitment to stand behind the financial system in Scotland, at least until independence was actually achieved.
“Whatever happens in the vote, the Bank of England will be the continuing authority for financial stability for some period of time, certainly over the interim period, and we will look to discharge our responsibilities accordingly,” the governor said.
“We have contingency plans we develop . . . I would underscore in terms of our responsibilities for financial stability we have a wide range of tools and plans.”
The central bank has already had a number of technical discussions with Scottish officials on issues surrounding the vote.