RBS pressured to reveal plans if Scotland votes for independence
Mark Leftly is political correspondent at The Independent on Sunday and associate business editor across the Independent titles. He writes a weekly column, Parliamentary Business, published on a Wednesday, that covers politics and the City. He is a multi-award winning reporter and was named Press Gazette's business magazine journalist of the year prior to joining The Independent on Sunday.
Sunday 01 December 2013
Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life are among the listed businesses based north of the border that are under pressure to tell shareholders their plans should Scotland vote for independence.
Politicians and senior business figures told The Independent on Sunday that when Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, produced a White Paper on Tuesday to make the case for independence, the vote became a "material issue" for companies listed on the stock exchange. This means that they should have to present either their position on independence – yes or no – or at least outline how the business would react to any changes in how Scotland is governed.
Ann McKechin, the Labour MP for Glasgow North, said: "It is important that these companies make clear to staff, shareholders and investors what the consequences would be for their business in the event of a Yes vote, and particularly the uncertainty of what currency they would operate under."
Mr Salmond said last week that Scotland would retain the pound and that the Bank of England would still be able to bail out the country's financial institutions in the event of another crisis. However, this view has been disputed, with the former prime minister John Major arguing that there could be no "halfway house" that left the remainder of the Union to underwrite Scotland's debts.
Scotland has a particularly strong financial services sector. However, industry sources pointed out that businesses such as RBS are more reliant on their English than Scottish customers, meaning that independence could open up questions such as whether they should relocate to London.
A spokesman for Standard Life said the company would be "making a careful and considered assessment of the White Paper".
A Financial Reporting Council spokesman said: "The Companies Act and the Corporate Governance Code essentially require directors to set out the prospects for the business, highlighting principal risks. So if boards consider that a vote in favour of Scottish independence is a strategic issue or a principal risk, then disclosure should be made."
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