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UK: Major employer warns it may quit Scotland if region votes for independence from England


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UK: Major employer warns it may quit Scotland if region votes for independence from England

A major employer has warned it may move some of its operations outside Scotland if nationalists win a referendum over independence from England.

Insurance and pensions heavyweight Standard Life said it was setting up registered companies in England “as a precautionary measure”.

It came as the Royal Bank of Scotland conceded a vote for independence would probably significantly hit its credit ratings, impacting its costs.

Scotland will vote on whether to split from England on September 18.

“Standard Life and RBS’s comments will have an impact on the debate as they are totemic institutions that represent a really important part of the Scottish economy,” said Simon Clark, head of the school of economics at the University of Edinburgh.

Their comments come as a dispute over currency has ignited the debate, with Scottish leader Alex Salmond wanting to share the pound in a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom but the major British parties rejecting this plan.

The Scottish government said the comments backed its argument that a monetary union was best for businesses both sides of the border, calling for talks with the UK government.

But the UK government, represented by Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, said Standard Life and RBS’s foray into the ring showed the risks of independence becoming clearer.

Standard Life said it was setting up registered companies in England “as a precautionary measure” into which it could transfer operations if Scots ended a 307-year tie to England to ensure its competitiveness and interests of its stakeholders.

Chief executive David Nish said this was necessary due to uncertainty over how an independent Scotland would work, such as its currency and if it would join the European Union.

“We have started work to establish additional registered companies to operate outside Scotland into which we could transfer parts of our operations if it was necessary to do so,” said Nish, stressing the company was politically neutral.

Scotland is home to the second largest financial services industry in the United Kingdom, accounting for about 150,000 jobs.

RBS, once the world’s largest bank with 12,000 staff in Scotland, said in the risk section of its annual results on Thursday that independence could impact its credit ratings and the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape.

But chief executive Ross McEwan said the bank had yet to make plans for a “yes” vote, saying the company was neutral and “won’t do anything to raise the temperature of that vote”.

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