Scottish independence: Blow to Yes campaign as BP and Standard Life claim breakaway will harm business

North Sea oil industry is Scotland's major earner

Nigel Morris,Ben Chu
Thursday 11 September 2014 11:35 BST
(Getty Images)

The campaign against independence received a major boost today when the boss of BP warned that the North Sea oil industry would be harmed by a vote to leave the United Kingdom.

The pensions giant Standard Life, which employs more than 5,000 people in Scotland, also disclosed it was drawing up contingency plans to move some operations to England in the event of a Yes vote next week.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, claimed the declarations from business amounted to a “Black Wednesday” for the Nationalist cause.

But the SNP countered that the oil industry would have a “bright future” in an independent Scotland and dismissed as “scaremongering” fears that Standard Life was about to move south.

Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, argued that long-term investment in North Sea drilling operations required “fiscal stability and certainty”.

He said: “As a major investor in Scotland, now and into the future, BP believes the future prospects for the North Sea are best served by maintaining the existing capacity and integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Standard Life’s financial warning followed a 2.6 per cent drop in its share value since Friday as investors’ concerns over the currency and financial regulation of a post-independence Scotland have grown.

It said: “In view of the uncertainty around Scotland’s constitutional future we have put in place precautionary measures which would help enable us to provide customers with continuity.”

The plans could mean the transfer of pensions, investments, and other savings held by UK customers of Standard Life to new companies south of the border.

Meanwhile, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, cautioned that an independent Scotland could need to hold up to £165bn of foreign exchange to be able to guarantee domestic financial stability.

Mr Alexander said: “This is the day the economic case for separation died and reality that independence will cost jobs, investment, and growth dawned. Today is Alex Salmond’s Black Wednesday.”

But the SNP said research predicted that 99 commercially viable oil discoveries would be made over the next 30 years, as well as others that could be made viable through technological advances.

Its energy spokesman Fergus Ewing said there was “a bright future for Scotland’s oil and gas sector for decades to come”.

Mr Salmond dismissed fears that Standard Life is preparing to quit an independent Scotland as “nonsense” and pointed to a £90m building project by the company in Edinburgh.

“That doesn't look like the actions of a company that has any intentions whatsoever of pulling out of Scotland,” he told a rally in the city.

“I think we are at a stage in Scotland where people are going to look at scaremongering, shake their heads and say: ‘Have these people got nothing else to say but this negative doom-mongering?’”

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