Independence means instability, say top economists

Survey of world's leading business school professors suggests Scotland would suffer 'extreme economic pain' in the event of a 'yes' vote

The realities of a Scottish secession are anything but simple. Top economists from the world's leading business schools considered the macroeconomic consequences of a breakup — and overwhelmingly agreed that a sovereign Scotland would be susceptible to instability for years to come.

Policy uncertainty comes with a price, and the threat of secession is the ultimate uncertainty.

""Splitting equals extreme economic pain," said Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Between budget concerns and monetary challenges, Scotland and England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are "better together," he said.

In the survey, carried out by Chicago Booth's IGM Forum, 62 percent of respondents agreed that "one consequence of separating from the rest of the U.K. would be greater macroeconomic instability for Scotland for many years," while 5 percent strongly agreed.

Others panelists thought the upshot less clear: "Pegging the Scottish to the English pound might essentially replicate the current state of affairs," said Larry Samuelson of Yale. Meanwhile, Oliver Hart of Harvard maintained that once the issues of currency and position within Europe are resolved, "things may be OK," but firmly classified a Scottish pound as a "bad idea."

The lone dissenter, Robert Hall of Stanford, gave this enigmatic comment with his disagreement: "Small English-speaking countries have excellent records" for macroeconomic stability, he said.

Of course, to many Scots, said Alberto Alesina of Harvard, "instability may be a price worth paying for independence."

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Contact: Anil Kashyap is available for further comment at Anil.Kashyap@chicagobooth.edu.

Press contact: Neil Atherton at Noir sur Blanc at +33 (0)1 41 43 72 83 or natherton@noirsurblanc.com.