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RBS to stay in Scotland, but Standard Life may yet move

23/09/14

Not all the economic uncertainty created by the referendum has been dispelled by the No vote.

Financial firms that had threatened to leave Scotland in the event of an independence vote have all now confirmed they will remain based there, following the result of the referendum.

The historic vote saw 55 per cent of ballots cast in favour of staying in the UK, with only four out of 32 local government areas supporting the Yes campaign.

Among the places that voted heavily against independence was Edinburgh, where firms like Standard Life, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Bank of Scotland are based. Some 61.1 per cent voters opted against becoming the newest capital city of an independent country.

Some of the companies whose warnings about leaving an independent Scotland amid uncertainty over issues like currency, EU membership and regulation were swift to confirm their contingency plans were being shelved.

RBS said: "The announcement we made about moving our registered head office to England was part of a contingency plan to ensure certainty and stability for our customers, staff and shareholders should there be a 'Yes' vote.

"That contingency plan is no longer required. Following the result, it is business as usual for all our customers across the UK and RBS."

However, Standard Life did not give such a clear and unequivocal commitment. In its statement, it noted the result and said it seemed clear that further, substantial constitutional change is coming. Moreover, it stated, it was not yet clear what that meant. As a result, the company would "consider the implications of any changes" to the governance of Scotland before making any long-term decisions.

This suggests Standard Life may be particularly concerned that the devolution of more tax-raising powers to Holyrood could involve new levies on pensions and investments, which could materially affect the interest of the company, its customers and stakeholders.

In terms of the implications for jobs, it is clear that there will be no migration south en masse, but the continued uncertainty for some means it also cannot be guaranteed that all the financial sector roles based in Scotland will remain there. 

 

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