High-Profile Firms Plan Scottish Exit if Independence Vote Wins
September 15, 2014
As the referendum to decide Scotland’s future nears ever closer, a number of high-profile companies across the UK are already making their intentions clear by stating their plans to move across the border to England if the ‘Yes’ vote continues its head of steam and ultimately wins the referendum on Thursday 18th September.
In a blow to Alex Salmond and his growing army of ‘Yes’ supporters, some of the UK’s biggest blue chip firms have confirmed they would be looking to migrate their headquarters away from Scotland if the country votes for independence.
Royal Bank of Scotland was one of the first to publicise plans to switch its headquarters to London if Scotland breaks away from the UK next week, and they could lead a mass exodus with Glasgow’s Clydesdale Bank, TSB and Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank, as well as insurance giant Aegon – owner of Scottish Equitable – all prepared to do likewise.
In a statement, RBS warned of ‘material uncertainties’ arising from the Scottish referendum vote.
Trade union Unite welcomed the pledge but urged Lloyds to also offer similar reassurance for its 16,000 Scottish staff. TSB Bank declared it would relocate some operations if Scotland becomes independent. Its contingency plans could involve setting up a new entity in England and transferring its 4.7million customers to the new company.
Edinburgh-based insurer Aegon said that it would set up a registered company in England for its 1.5million UK savers based outside of an independent Scotland.
In retaliation to these intentions, Alex Salmond accused the Treasury of leaking market-sensitive information about the future of the Royal Bank of Scotland in his native country in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to undermine the independence campaign.
The first minister said it was a matter of “enormous gravity” for an unnamed Treasury official to tip off the BBC about a decision by the bank to move its registered office to London in the event of a yes vote.
The first minister said it was a clear breach of Treasury and civil service rules, which ban any official from releasing market sensitive information. He said the offence was doubly serious since the UK government owns 80% of RBS shares. “It is a basic rule that it can’t be released prior to the announcement at 7am this morning. This is a matter of enormous gravity,” Salmond said.
He accused the Treasury of being a major force in the no campaign: “They’ve now been caught red-handed as being part of a campaign of scaremongering.” There were now “Treasury fingerprints all over” a campaign of “intimidation and bullying which has served the no campaign so badly”.
Other leading financial groups have also said they would react to a “yes” verdict. Insurer Standard Life is another firm that has reiterated it could transfer business to England if necessary after the vote.
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