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Number might be up for status of sterling


Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Has there ever been a more rancorous retail administration – against a more tense constitutional backdrop – than Phones 4u?

The founder of the business, James Caudwell, has hit out at O2, EE and Vodafone for walking away from their contracts with Phones 4u, actions which have pulled the rug from beneath the mobile phone business.

Caudwell sold the business to private equity owners BC Partners in 2006 for £1.5bn. He predicted that the collapse of Phones 4u could cause mobile phone handset prices to go up "rapidly" in the UK.

And it's not the only factor mitigating against the price of mobile phones – and indeed, any other consumer goods – at the minute.

We are all on tenterhooks over tomorrow's referendum on Scottish independence, and wondering what the political and practical repercussions might be for ourselves.

There are the many trading partners we have in Scotland, and independence would likely mean those relationships would be recalibrated, and subjected to new regulations.

And there may be less tangible effects on political aspirations in Northern Ireland – will it galvanise a rethink of our own status in the United Kingdom, whether weakening it for some or strengthening it for others?

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Internationally, the biggest economic fear is over a weakening of sterling. Markets' faith in the UK's currency will be shaken if the very Union which uses it is dismantled .

A strong sterling in the last six months has helped inflation come down, making goods cheaper for most of us to buy – though of course it has not had such a positive impact on exporters. There has been a 1.2% fall in food prices – the fastest drop since 2002, as Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey points out.

A sterling diminished in the cold, clinical eyes of the world around us – removed from the emotional uplift independence will bring to many people in Scotland – will diminish our spending power. We will need to be brave in facing up to the consequences of independence – or the restless nation which will result from a tight 'no' outcome. But as good neighbours, we must wish Scotland all the best, whatever happens.