Scotland business

Scottish independence: Stagecoach warns of potential 'risks'

Brian Souter Image copyright bbc
Image caption Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter has donated £100,000 to Yes Scotland-affiliated group Christians For Yes and pledged money to the SNP

SNP donor Sir Brian Souter's Stagecoach Group has warned investors of potential "risks" of Scottish independence.

The firm said changes to the regulatory environment or the availability of public funding after the referendum, or next year's UK general election, "could affect the group's prospects".

The views were expressed in Stagecoach's preliminary results.

The pro-Union Better Together campaign said the comments drove "a coach and horses through the nationalists' case".

Business for Scotland, a group which supports a "Yes" vote in the referendum on 18 September, described Better Together's response as "a nonsensical interpretation".

Stagecoach made reference to the independence referendum in the "principal risks and uncertainties" section of its latest preliminary results.

A Stagecoach spokesman later said: "Consistent with other companies, we ensure our investors are aware of relevant matters affecting our business, both risks and opportunities.

"This section of our preliminary results makes the point that our business operates in an environment which can be subject to political change.

"It highlights the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence and the 2015 UK general election as forthcoming events which could result in change.

"It is not a comment on the merits of Scottish independence, which we have consistently stated is a matter for the people of Scotland to decide.

"Stagecoach Group remains neutral on the issue, as it has always been."

Sir Brian, who chairs the transport group, has pledged to gift up to £1m to the SNP by matching pound-for-pound every donation received during the year of the independence referendum.

He has also donated £100,000 to Yes Scotland-affiliated group Christians For Yes.

'Big risk'

Commenting on behalf of Better Together, Labour's shadow business minister Ian Murray said: "When even Brian Souter, who has bankrolled the nationalists for years, thinks separation is a big risk, then you know Alex Salmond has a problem.

"This intervention drives a coach and horses through the nationalists' case for separation.

"Breaking up the UK would be a big risk for Scotland. Stagecoach are right to highlight the risk separation poses to public funding in Scotland."

He added: "When Alex Salmond can't even tell us the basics like what would replace the pound, how pensions would be afforded or what would happen to funding for our schools and hospitals, it's no surprise the majority of Scots are saying 'No Thanks' to separation."

'Nonsensical interpretation'

Business for Scotland member David Cairns, who is executive chairman of IT firm Prismtech, said: "This is a nonsensical interpretation by the No campaign.

"Brian Souter is on the record as a business leader who will vote Yes in September so that we can build a more prosperous economy and fairer society, so we should be grateful to the No campaign for drawing attention to his strong pro-independence views.

"The report discusses the UK general election in exactly the same context as the referendum and is therefore not about an independent Scotland - just as it doesn't specify any particular outcome of the 2015 general election."