John Lewis chief warns Scots: 'Independence could lead to higher prices'

Chairman says that customers may have to bear costs of delivery to Scotland

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The Independent Online

A vote for independence could push up supermarkets prices in Scotland, the head of the John Lewis Partnership has warned.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the partnership that owns Waitrose, said that it costs more to deliver goods to parts of Scotland than it does further south, and if Scotland and England became separate countries, retailers would consider making their customers bear the extra costs.

"From a business perspective there will be economic consequences to a Yes vote,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

His remarks are the latest of a series of warnings from business leaders about the potential consequences of a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum taking place a week today. The Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax and Bank of Scotland, has warned that it has plans to set up new ‘legal entities’ in England if the two countries separate. The Royal Bank of Scotland, which has operated out of Scotland since 1727, has also warned that it may re-domicile in London.

 

Sir Charlie said: "For various reasons - regulation and transport costs etc - it does currently cost more money to serve parts of Scotland. Most retailers don't run different prices, they absorb that in the totality.

"If you go forward several years and you see a divergence of different things - particularly currency - that creates the likelihood, not the certainty, that costs would be higher.

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"And when you are talking about two different countries it is most probable that most retailers would then start pricing differently.

"My view would be that the likelihood is that that would lead to some higher prices."

But his comments were dismissed by the Scottish finance secretary John Swinney: "Charlie Mayfield is entitled to his opinion. I think the argument is one that is firmly contested by other retailers who do not take the view that has been expressed this morning by Charlie Mayfield," he said.

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