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RBS ‘would move headquarters to London’ if Scotland voted for independence

File photo dated 03/04/13 of an RBS sign. The bank has warned over a hit of up to £900 million for payment protection insurance after a last-minute surge in claims ahead of the August deadline. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday September 4, 2019. The part-nationalised bank said the number of claims last month was "significantly higher than expected", with a spike in the final days before the August 29 deadline. See PA story CITY RBS. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
File photo dated 03/04/13 of an RBS sign. The bank has warned over a hit of up to £900 million for payment protection insurance after a last-minute surge in claims ahead of the August deadline. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday September 4, 2019. The part-nationalised bank said the number of claims last month was "significantly higher than expected", with a spike in the final days before the August 29 deadline. See PA story CITY RBS. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

RBS would move its headquarters from Scotland to London if the nation voted for independence, the boss of its parent company confirmed.

Alison Rose, chief executive of the NatWest Group, said that while the issue of independence is one for Scots to determine, the Edinburgh-based bank’s balance sheet would be “too big for an independent Scottish economy”.

Her remarks came just a week before Scots go to the polls in the Holyrood election, with the SNP pushing to win a majority of seats in the hope of securing a second referendum on independence.

However, a new Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman put support for Yes at 42%, its lowest level since just before the 2019 general election, with No on 49% and 8% undecided.

And millionaire businessman Sir Tom Hunter warned in the Daily Record that now was not the time to be “gambling” on another independence referendum.

Boris Johnson Scottish independence

The Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh almost three centuries ago, in 1727.

Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser seized on the remarks about its future, saying it “starkly confirms the very real consequences for Scottish jobs and business if Nicola Sturgeon ever gets her way”.

Mr Fraser added: “For the historic Royal Bank of Scotland to be forced to leave Scotland in the event of the break-up of Britain would be devastating.”

Ms Rose told The Herald newspaper: “As you know, we are neutral on the issue of Scottish independence – it is something for the Scottish people to decide.

“We have been very clear, and it is recognised by senior nationalists, that in the event that there was independence in Scotland, our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy, and we would move our registered headquarters… to London.”

Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Alison Rose gives a speech in February 2020.

Her remarks came just a week before Scots go to the polls in the Holyrood election, with the SNP pushing to win a majority of seats in the hope of securing a second referendum on independence.

‘Hammer blow’

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK Scotland in Union campaign group, said: “As part of the UK, Scotland has a thriving financial services industry providing high-quality jobs and income.

“Losing the RBS HQ to London would be a hammer blow for the country’s reputation as a place to invest and work.”

Scottish Government trade minister Ivan McKee insisted: “The SNP is focused on getting Scotland through and out of the pandemic and into recovery – as the plans we have set out today for the first 100 days of an SNP government show.

Scotland is already one of the most attractive places in the world to do business, and the evidence clearly shows that Scotland has the talent and ambition to build a prosperous economy, drive economic recovery and raise competitiveness.”

Ivan McKee

“As the chief executive of the NatWest Group makes clear, Scotland’s future is for the people of Scotland to decide and the bank, which is not talking about moving its operations but simply its registered address, has no view on that.

“Scotland is already one of the most attractive places in the world to do business, and the evidence clearly shows that Scotland has the talent and ambition to build a prosperous economy, drive economic recovery and raise competitiveness.”

Scots entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter.

Meanwhile, Sir Tom argued that Scotland needed “bold, ambitious industrial policies” that could not be offered in the short term if Scotland loses access to funding from Westminster.

He said: “In my opinion, we need to wake up and realise now is not the time to be gambling on an independence referendum.

“If the block grant goes in the midst of recovery from the pandemic, how do we pay for any of this in the short to medium term and all the politicians’ promises?

“Not one party has offered a credible economic strategy to deliver the economic growth we need to offer all our citizens the opportunity to thrive.”

‘Damaging plan’

On the campaign trail, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross highlighted the prospect of another referendum as he urged pro-UK voters to back his party next week.

“An indyref2 bill was the last thing they did in the previous Scottish Parliament term and it will be the first thing they do in the next term, unless pro-UK voters unite and use their peach ballots for the Scottish Conservatives to stop them,” he said.

“The only way to be sure of stopping their damaging plan to divide Scotland is by voters lending their party list votes on the peach ballot to the Scottish Conservatives.”

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