The pound took a beating against the dollar in early trading as an opinion poll pointed to a photo-finish in the historic September 18 referendum to decide the issue of independence for Scotland, which may break away from the United Kingdom after 307 years.
The British press went to town on Monday with headlines such as ‘10 days to save the Union’ that was forged in 1707 when the kingdoms of England and Scotland joined together in a political union that has been described as the most successful on various parameters over the centuries.
The pro-independence campaign, called the ‘Yes’ campaign, is currently upbeat, while recent opinion poll results have hit something of a panic button in the anti-independence ‘No’ campaign.
Both sides stepped up their battle as the voting day nears.
The pound fell to its lowest level in 10 months, falling 1% against the dollar in early trading to $1.6159, and also fell almost 1% against the euro to 1.2480 euros.
British financial markets tumbled on Monday. Sterling fell more than 1% — its biggest one-day drop in 13 months — to $1.6141, long-dated government bonds tumbled and £3.5 billion was wiped off the market value of six London-listed companies with large exposure to Scotland.
It came after a YouGov poll suggested supporters of an independent Scotland had taken a narrow lead.
The ‘Yes’ campaign is spearheaded by the Scottish National Party (SNP) that is currently in office in the Scottish Parliament, while the ‘No’ campaign is led by the three main parties: Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
Seeking to neutralise the gains of the ‘Yes’ campaign, top leaders of the ‘No’ campaign, including chancellor George Osborne and leader of the opposition Ed Miliband quickly moved to promise a time-bound transfer of more powers to Scotland in the even of a ‘No’ vote on 18 September.
SNP described the announcement as a last-minute ‘bribe’ to Scottish voters. Leading columnists and experts continue to make the case for both independence and remaining within the United Kingdom.