OUTLOOK: Standard warning underlines the stark choice for Scotland


Westminster Outlook Standard Life has confirmed a report last week that it could quit Scotland should the 'Yes' campaign win the independence referendum in September.

This is a vote that will be decided by the emotional pull of a people's right to self-determination, not the inevitably troublesome practicalities of putting independence into practice.

Standard Life's position will not change the vote, but, after 189 years of being based north of the border, chief executive David Nish is right to establish companies to which certain operations could be transferred in the event of independence.

Its Scottish employees should be told of the consequences of voting 'Yes', so they can fully prepare themselves for the likely impact on their lives, careers and families.

But the 'No' vote shouldn't get too excited. I'm told Number 10 is co-ordinating businesses with significant operations in Scotland and the rest of the UK so that they remain "on message".

Even BAE Systems, which has been my bête noire because of its silence on independence, is said to be close to making some sort of comment on what 'Yes' could mean for people such as the workers in its Clyde shipyards.

That Scotland wouldn't retain a currency union with the rest of the UK and that certain employers might have to revamp their businesses in a self-ruled country will not guarantee a cross in the 'No' box. Instead, this just spells out some of the immediate issues Scotland's first government would have to tackle.

The mistake would be for all of us who want Scotland to remain part of the union to show any triumphalism over Standard Life's response. The choice is a simpler, starker one: between being a people able to forge their own path, or honouring and continuing three centuries of mutually beneficial unity with the rest of Britain.