Scottish independence: what commercial lawyers need to know

Scottish independence: what commercial lawyers need to know

For 112,180 days the kingdoms of England and Scotland have been joined in one political union: the United Kingdom.

On 18 September—in 78 days—the Scottish people will vote on whether to dissolve that union and become an independent state.

Like the agitated bubbles in a Champagne bottle which is being teased open, the debate is now reaching its crescendo. At an Evening Standard event in London's Guildhall last night, leading public figures—from Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) to Hardeep Singh Kohli (comedian and self-styled trouble-maker)—discussed the pros and cons of Scotland going it alone. The arguments were erudite, witty and bad-tempered as, in fairness, all impassioned politic discourse ought to be.

'Yes' voter Stewart Hosie, SNP MP for Dundee East, gave an animated speech bemoaning the 'negativity' of the 'no' campaign. He mocked, to much laughter from those gathered in the Great Hall, those who think Scotland can't be independent 'because there would be too many forms to fill in'. Bureaucracy 1, Independence 0?

On the other hand, Helena Kennedy QC, 'no' voter, Labour peer and a 'proud Scot', believed that romantic nationalism 'is a retreat from the future'. She espoused a federal structure for the UK, believing that economic division would be the wrong path to take in a future of rapid globalisation and increasingly powerful corporations.

With odds of 1/6 for 'no' and 7/2 for 'yes', it is clear nobody quite knows who will be opening the bottles of chilled Champagne in the wee small hours of 19 September.

So what does the prospect of independence mean for commercial lawyers?

Lawyers like certainty.

At the moment, however, commercial lawyers are on a hiding to nothing if they think that they can find overall legal certainty in this area, certainly before the referendum takes place.

Nobody knows, for example, what currency would be circulating on Independence Day or even what it might be called.

That said, there seems

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