Scotland business

Scottish independence would still prompt RBS office move

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Media captionRBS chief executive Ross McEwan on Scottish independence

Royal Bank of Scotland still plans to move its registered office out of Scotland should there be a "Yes" vote in any future independence referendum.

Chief executive Ross McEwan, however, stressed that it would not lead to major job losses in Scotland.

Warnings about a such a move by RBS featured heavily in the campaign ahead of the September 2014 independence vote.

The Scottish government welcomed the commitment to retaining Scottish jobs.

Mr McEwan said the bank's position had not changed despite the recent Brexit vote which has prompted speculation about a second independence referendum.

In the EU vote 62% of Scottish voters wanted to retain membership while the UK as a whole voted by 52% to 48% to leave.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised to explore all options to retain Scotland's links with Europe and has said a second independence referendum is now "highly likely".

Shortly before the first independence vote in 2014, RBS confirmed it had drawn up contingency plans to "re-domicile" the bank's holding company to England.

Some experts have suggested Scotland's financial services sector could benefit from Scotland's continuing membership of the EU, providing a new gateway to the European single market for British businesses after the rest of the UK leaves.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ross McEwan has been helm of RBS since 2013

In a BBC interview, however, Mr McEwan said: "We'd have to make the same moves I suspect because the Royal Bank of Scotland, being domiciled in Scotland, would just be too big for the economy, even in the shape that we're building.

"That's around the [brass] plaque, it's not about where our people are because we have a very big business up here in Scotland.

"I've got 12,000 people who serve both the Scottish people and we also run our retail business from up here along with a lot of our technology.

"Two years ago when we had the Scottish referendum, I made it very clear we'd have the people in the right place, that moving the plaque didn't make any difference to them.

"I think that would be the same. I think for any country, they just need to remain very competitive so businesses like ourselves want to operate in those countries."

Asked what he would say to Nicola Sturgeon if she wanted his views on the economic impact of a second independence vote, he replied: "Just take account of uncertainty - that's what you're seeing after Brexit.

"It's uncertainty that slows markets down. Make sure the long game's worth it. But that's going to be up to the people of Scotland."

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: "As RBS has made clear, the location of their 'brass plaque' will make no difference to jobs in Scotland.

"The uncertainty our economy faces is from Brexit. That's why our immediate priority is to secure our continued place in the single market and maintaining and strengthening our links with our key European markets."

Scottish Labour Business Manager James Kelly said: "This intervention once again makes clear that being part of the UK is good for jobs, business and the economy in Scotland.

"We don't need to risk all that with another referendum on independence. Labour committed in our manifesto to vote against a second independence referendum in the lifetime of this Parliament. That position won't change any time soon."

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