Business intervenes in Scottish referendum

 

I  am surprised at how many businesses have decided to intervene in a highly contentious referendum campaign when they have no need to do so.  These large businesses need to remember that they have many shareholders and customers who disagree with the stance they are taking, as well as many who agree. It may all prove to be counter productive for them and  for the campaign they say they are trying to help.

I have no objection to the banks making clear what they would have to do if Scotland votes to become independent. They need to consider their position and then make a formal statement to the Stock Exchange. They were rightly being asked about the impact on their ability  to borrow and lend if they no longer were regulated by the Bank of England and no longer had access to Bank of England lender of last resort cash. They needed to clarify the new position were Scotland to vote for out. They have decided to move their HQs to London to continue to qualify for the Bank of England umbrella. This will help keep their cost of capital down and allow them to maintain current lending programmes.

Alex Salmond brought this on himself by refusing to support setting up his own currency or applying to join the Euro. With no Central Bank any Scottish commercial bank will be in a weaker position than banks who do have access to a Central Bank. I do not know how these banks handled their individual announcements but of course they need to follow the correct company governance procedures and the correct disclosure procedures to the Stock Exchange where they are quoted businesses.

I find the dash of many retailers to tell us things might be a  bit dearer in Scotland if they vote for independence odd. Why upset  half your customers in Scotland by intervening like this? Why upset many of your existing English customers, who are now told by some shops  they are cross subsidising the Scottish customers under the present Union arrangements? There is no Stock Exchange imperative to make this disclosure now. Retailers regularly cross subsidise some towns and cities out of profits made in other towns and cities without having to give a detailed break down city by city.  It looks as if they simply wanted to play politics, and they may find out there is a cost to them. Customers both sides of the border might wish to switch to a retailer that has not jumped in with such claims. If a future independent Scotland should  emerge the trend of prices will depend on many things, including how much competition remains in the local market and how business friendly policy is generally.

The defence contractors, like the banks, had a duty to warn their shareholders through proper Stock Exchange announcements that their Scottish defence  businesses are at risk in the event of independence. It is very unlikely the rest of the UK will be offering  work to Scottish yards and contractors if Scotland leaves.

The final predictable interventions of doom  are the ones from large overseas investment banks. They clearly are on the side  of the EU. They are against  an independent Scotland  in case such a move led to an independent Catalonia and other knock ons in Euroland. One of them being interviewed on the Today programme hinted at this, by talking about the Euro and German support for southern countries in the zone, when asked questions about Scotland.  It was difficult to follow their logic of a major recession based on Scottish banks not having access to Bank of England money, when the self same banks have already announced they would rearrange themselves to continue to be regulated by the Bank of England and have facilities from the Bank if needed.

I suspect Scottish voters will answer the more fundamental question – do they want to be part of a new Scottish state or do they wish to be part of the long standing UK? For every voter who might be influenced favourably by businesses playing politics there might be at least one who resents their interventions. Both sides are trying to play the business card, so the businesses end up firing at each other.

 

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72 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Indeed it is quite surprising that companies such as the major supermarkets have felt the need to make pro union statements. In reality I suspect it would make little difference to them either way.

    One can imagine how much worse it would be if the UK did ever get an EU referendum. Multinational companies would be pushed to promote the EU, taxpayers’ money would be used to push the stay in agenda, Lib/Lab/Con and Cameron would all be pro, the BBC/CBI would be absurdly biased as usual, most charities, the bulk of the state sector would all for remaining in. All wanting the UK to remain chained to the disaster that is the anti-democratic, over taxed, anti business, green drivel, EUSSR.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Except that this campaign seems to show it doesn’t work any longer.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        I think it will work, we shall see.

        • JoeSoap
          Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Whether yes or no wins, can’t you see this is gently rolling downhill into a new order?

          Communications are supposed to bring people closer, but thousands of Scots protest outside the remote BBC in Glasgow, because that is a symbol of the establishment, which is telling them to vote No.
          Cameron Clegg and Miliband travel to Scotland, but are seen as the establishment and made unwelcome.
          Even Darling and Brown, Scots but now seen to be clutching at straws, because they are still seen as railing against a popular cause, and are out of their time.

          This is the age of connectivity – decisions can be made by a thumbs up on Facebook, or at worst by people a few miles down the road with a kind of similar outlook. Better like that than by a bloke with receding hairline who went to Eton, a bloke who looks like a weirdo they employ to make the tea, or yet another English bloke who seems very earnest and promises anything but delivers nothing. I think it isn’t that Scots want to put up barriers; young Scots just see a remote authority making decisions for them as irrelevant, and they know they can do it better for themselves.

          The party or organisation which is able to can this type of momentum in England will be onto a winner; UKIP kind of does it for a section of us; it brings decisions closer than Brussels and closer than the elite of Westminster, for now. Ironically, the more seats it gets in Parliament, the more UKIP could be seen to be joining the elite. Perhaps its answer is to push for an English Parliament (out of London) via a few seats in Westminster and stack up authority there (i.e.”do a Salmond”). Salmond’s cunning is that he has got Parliamentary authority for what he is doing by the back door.

          The EU ideal is for now, of course, that the Union is held with devolved powers. That prevents calls for removal of former UK constituents from the EU. Long-term, though, a power-up model from devolved Parliaments in England Wales NI and Scotland, with significant Eurosceptics sitting in them could move a subsidiary central legislature in London to remove itself from the EU.

  2. petermartin2001
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    It was difficult to follow their logic of a major recession based on Scottish banks not having access to Bank of England money, when the self same banks have already announced they would rearrange themselves to continue to be regulated by the Bank of England and have facilities from the Bank if needed.

    Isn’t this effectively the situation the Euro countries are in with the ECB? Scotland, at present, is a partner in the BoE which is an issuer of the UK £ sterling. That will change with independence. Instead of being an part-issuer of the Pound, Scotland will become a user of the Pound just like Spain and Greece are users of the Euro. That’s a big difference. Being a user, may well suit exporting countries like Germany who have a steady inflow of Euros from the sale of those exports, but it certainly would not have suited the UK. It would have been a disaster for the UK to have lost economic sovereignty.

    Whether losing economic sovereignty is a disaster for Scotland will depend on its terms of trade. It will make little difference if that’s due to Scotland using the Pound or the Euro. It’s likely to be the Euro after a few years in any case. The adoption of the Euro will almost certainly be imposed as a condition for EU membership for an independent Scotland.

    So although the question has been phrased in terms of Scotland using the Pound, it really should be rephrased in terms of the Euro. If Scotland votes “yes’ it will be taken, by their SNP leaders, to mean ‘yes’ to EU membership and ‘yes’ to the Euro.

    Would that really be a ‘yes’ to Independence?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Ah, but according to the Scottish government, aka the SNP, there would be no changes to Scotland’s “terms of trade” upon independence, so the question does not even arise; and evidently they have managed to get most voters in Scotland to swallow that idea.

      I say “most” voters rather than “many” because I suspect that along with most of those who intend to vote “yes” a substantial number of those who intend to vote “no” have also been duped into believing it, but they will still vote “no” for reasons other than the most powerful economic reason that a “yes” vote would put half of Scotland’s GDP, and so about half of their jobs, at risk.

      The fact is that the average Scotsman has as little knowledge of the EU treaties as the average Englishman, as most people have never thought to even look them up on the internet let alone endure infinite hours of tedium reading them; they have other more pressing concerns in their daily lives, and so they go by what is said by politicians and other “experts” as glossed in the mass media.

      So when the SNP puts out a carefully worded reassurance such as:

      “Scotland has been a member of the EU for forty years and would automatically continue to be a member upon independence”

      they don’t question it or deconstruct it, they tend to accept it.

      There is in fact a simple test of whether that claim is likely to be true; it isn’t necessary to devote countless hours to reading the whole of the EU treaties:

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2010.083.01.0001.01.ENG#C_2010083EN.01001301

      it’s a matter of a few seconds to search them for the word “Scotland” and find that it does not appear anywhere; that in itself shows that it would be necessary to amend the treaties for Scotland to make a seamless transition to being an EU member state in its own sovereign right.

      I have no doubt that Cameron would press for the necessary treaty changes to be made; the problem for Salmond would not be Cameron but some of those leading other EU member state governments, each of which would have a veto.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        None of these YES voters either care or understand about the economic implications of separation. They are simply not interested in hearing reasoned argument based on economic necessities.
        They have been whipped up into a revolutionary bolshevist frenzy. It really is the lowest common denominator here and has little to do with genuine nationalism. It is a holocaust of hatred and having been on the streets of Glasgow and experienced it for myself I can assure you that this is the case.
        For Dr Redwood to talk about democracy is to miss the point. This is a battle, a contest between moderation and the rule of law or mob rule, anarchy and revolution.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted September 15, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Dr Redwood has indeed talked about democracy, and he has said that if there is just one more vote cast for “yes” than for “no” on Thursday then that will be it, the UK government and Parliament will proceed forthwith with the dissolution of the Union, there will be no going back, that’s democracy. And it matters not that the franchise for the referendum on whether to permanently break up the country was that used to elect local councillors in Scotland for short fixed terms, and it matters not how the two campaigns were conducted, and it matters not that many of those who vote “yes” have been sold a prospectus that the UK government itself knows to be false and would no doubt quickly be proved to be false once the negotiations on the terms of separation had started. On the other hand my point is that whatever happens on Thursday the Union will still exist on Friday, and the UK government will still have the same responsibilities towards the UK citizens in Scotland; and if a government thinks that part of its role is to protect citizens from deception by doorstep shysters, and insists on a “cooling off” period for any contracts into which they may be induced to enter, then it must certainly think that in the event of “yes” vote it should give those citizens in Scotland the chance to think again and vote again once a proposed new settlement had been finalised.

          Reply I do not think that was the original deal and I do not see the Scottish side consenting to that in the event of a Yes vote.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted September 15, 2014 at 3:44 am | Permalink

        Yes I think you’re right. I’ve recently just been to Northern region of Spain and the demand for independence there is very strong. There are Basque flags on most buildings. So, I would imagine the Spanish government would want to stop the Scots from setting a precedent which could give hope to the Basques and Catalan separatists there.

        Ironically, if Scotland and these Spanish regions seceded they would all be much better off having their own currencies anyway. At least until the EU worked out how to make the Euro work in the same way as the $ functions effectively in the USA.

    • waramess
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I think you and others forget conveniently why the EU countries are in trouble. It had nothing to do with the Euro and everything to do with governments borrowing excessive amounts and spending far in excess of their income (deficit)

      Budgets were blatently exceeded and banks allowed to lend multiples of their capital which were often stratospheric.

      Those in the Eurozone must earn their Euros for they can not print them and any borrowings have to be repaid from earned Euros where the debt cannot be rolled over and so it will be for the Scots.

      There really is nothing wrong with this; it’s a damned good discipline for any government and is to be commended.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Indeed “spending far in excess of their income” – and on very stupid things this while over regulating and making even private industry do stupid things through such regulation.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted September 15, 2014 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        Waramess,

        Those in the Eurozone must earn their Euros for they can not print them and any borrowings have to be repaid from earned Euros where the debt cannot be rolled over and so it will be for the Scots.

        That’s what the Germans say! They manage to survive with the Euro by running a 7% export surplus which means they have a healthy influx of Euros. Of course the snag is that not every country can run a surplus. It’s just not arithmetically possible.

        For every China and Germany, there has to be a USA or a UK who run deficits to compensate. And as you say “There really is nothing wrong with this” !

        • waramess
          Posted September 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          The USA is able to run a trade deficit because, for the time being, it is a reserve currency. The UK does so by the dangerous practice of supplementing it’s chronic deficit with net inward investment.

          No country can run an indefinite trade deficit, and devaluation simply makes its citizens poorer by increasing import prices, particularly if the value of exports is not increased.

          Governments themselves need to cut their spending rather than get involved in the nonsense of QE and other forms of money printing to get out of trouble on their domestic deficits.

          All government spending is destructive economically and using the printing press to get out of trouble is stealing from the poorest in society and giving to the rich.

          If the politicians and Central Bank were to stop trying to inflate the monetary base then the Euro would behave pretty much as gold would, had it’s price not been arbitarily fixed.

          Nothing wrong with Gold as a monetary base.

          • petermartin2001
            Posted September 16, 2014 at 12:26 am | Permalink

            There’s no particular reason why the USA benefits from being the world’s reserve currency. The USA and UK economies are quite similar in terms of their internal and external deficits which are linked much more than is generally realised.

            Japan manages to function very effectively with a debt to GDP ratio which is over 200% of GDP and more than double the UK’s national debt.

            All debts and deficits are caused by people, organisations, and countries wishing to save ££, $$ or Yen. If money issued by the US, UK or Japanese governments ends up being held in the central banks of the big exporters, who don’t wish to spend it, then these countries have to be in debt in accounting terms.

            The only solution, if indeed this is a problem, is to go back to the situation where countries imposed tariff barriers to protect their trade zones and prevent the build up of these kinds of financial imbalances. That may, or may not, involve some kind of return to use of gold to settle international accounts. That caused wars in the past and would again in the future. It isn’t a good option.

            Reply Japan manages to have such a high state debt by also having lots of savers who lend the money to the government. It is not external debt. Japan usually has a trade surplus and pays its way abroad.

          • petermartin2001
            Posted September 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

            Reply to Reply

            Internal debt can be more destabilising than external debt. If Japanese savers get spooked about a potential inflation they could all start over-spending simultaneously which could set off the problem they most fear. It would be politically very difficult for the Japanese government to control that by applying taxes on its own citizens.

            On the other hand, if the debt were owned by a foreign country, say in the form of Japanese treasury bonds, the situation would be somewhat different. All that country could do , if it wanted to spend its Japanese Yen, would be to give large orders for real goods and services to Japanese industrial companies. It would boost Japanese exports tremendously. That too could be inflationary, but the situation would be more manageable. The Japanese government would be able to negotiate with its foreign creditors to spend at an agreed rate. As a last resort it could even impose a tax on its own exports to control the situation.

            That’s essentially the situation the USA is in with regard to its Chinese creditors. It is China who has the bigger problem. IMO.

  3. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    (Raises personal and financial issues which I think are best not published. Is concerned about reliability of payments from larger Scottish banks – no need to be on the basis of changes resulting from a Yes vote – they remain UK banks until the negotiations are completed should Scotland vote YES, and there should be transitional provisions. ed)

    • Margaret
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Thankyou for reading this comment and I really did not expect it to be published however in the light of change it may be a warning to others to understand the potential for monies slipping through the net ( maybe deliberately) in times of financial unrest.

  4. Cheshire Girl
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that perhaps we should be too critical of the Supermarket bosses. I heard they were invited to Number 10. Is anyone going to tell me that they were not urged to speak out against independence for Scotland?
    It is now four days before the referendum and i still think the Scots should be left to ponder the options and decide how they will vote. It sounds to me that there will be a replay of this before the EU referendum in 2016. Our ears will be bent with the opinions of politicians, businesses and others who have their own agenda, instead of being given the facts and then allowed to decide for ourselves.

    • acorn
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      I met with some fellow number crunchers at Goodwood yesterday, this bit of conversation was apt. “… f***ing Scotland […] instead of the lobby, lobbying politicians, we got politicians, lobbying the lobby …”

    • John E
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Exactly, they are being leant on by No 10. Some companies had a duty to address the risks to comply with the rules on corporate governance when announcing their results, but the latest barrel scraping pronouncements just illustrate the abject panic at the highest levels.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Indeed and should be ever get an EU referendum, the multinationals, charities, state sector, banks, insurance & pension investment groups, political party members/MPs and media groups will be leant on too.

        There will never be a fair EU referendum in the UK.

  5. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “Alex Salmond brought this on himself by refusing to support setting up his own currency or applying to join the Euro.”

    Yes, but if he’d proposed either of those things he would have had no chance of winning the referendum, whereas by duping Scots into believing that they could keep the pound sterling after independence he has swayed a sufficient chunk of opinion to either win or come damn close to winning.

    If he does win then it will be largely by deceit on this and other matters, and the UK government and Parliament will know that; given that the responsibility of the UK government to protect UK citizens resident in Scotland would not cease when the votes have been counted and the result declared it would be a gross dereliction of that duty to proceed with the dissolution of the Union without giving the Scots a chance to accept or reject the actual terms of separation in a second referendum.

    And, yes, those terms of separation agreed with the government of the UK, and also with the governments of the other EU member states who would have to be involved, should also be put to people in the rest of the UK for their approval in a referendum, otherwise the UK government and Parliament might be tempted to give away too much.

    • waramess
      Posted September 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Salmond has duped no one. There is no reason why he should not adopt sterling in the short and medium term and do so quite successfully.

      His main problem will be in accepting a share of the National Debt which in all curcumstances will be in a foreign currency unless the UK government agree to him participating in a sterling zone.

      He would be foolish to simply take this on the chin and instead he should resist it robustly.

      Where is the evidence that Scotland bear responsibility for any part of the debt other than being a part of the UK? There is none unless, that is, there is clear evidence that they were part of the decision to “save the banks” or part of the decision for the UK government to continue running a huge deficit for the past four years.

      Just listen to the squeals from Westminster to understand why the Scots should vote YES to seperation. And no, I’m not Scots.

      • David Price
        Posted September 16, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        “Where is the evidence that Scotland bear responsibility for any part of the debt other than being a part of the UK?”

        Didn’t the Scottish voters contribute to the election of a UK Labour government that took us through middle eastern wars, “saved” the world from financial metdown and emptied the UK treasury?

  6. alan jutson
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Should they get involved ?

    Depends on how Mr Salmond is going to run the economy and fix tax rates.

    If taxes go up, then so do prices.

    If business rates go up, then so do prices

    If employment law changes to give rather more rights to employees, then prices go up.

    Obviously the opposite is also true, if costs come down, then so should prices.

    I see no problem in highlighting the above at all, so that your customers are aware.

    Thus the answer is in Mr Salmonds hands, given his recent and past threats to business, who would you trust !

    I think the Banks and Business comments have made rather more difference than the influx of Westminster politicians, but still a close call.

    • waramess
      Posted September 15, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Of course, on the contrary, should he cut public spending which he might well be able to do given the possibility of abandoning unnecessary luxuries like foreign aid then maybe he might even cut taxes

  7. Richard1
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, is proving highly effective in this. I hadnt heard her – or even of her – until a few days ago. She is much better than Mr Darling and other Labour figures who constantly try to bake into their argument defences of the mess Labour made of the UK. We should get Ms Davidson involved at a UK level after this for the election.

  8. Martin
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    This carry on is why the NO campaign have squandered an opinion poll lead. Endless one sided scar tactics aided by the pro-No media is hacking off the electorate.

  9. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    “The final predictable interventions of doom are the ones from large overseas investment banks. They clearly are on the side of the EU. They are against an independent Scotland in case such a move led to an independent Catalonia and other knock ons in Euroland.”

    The dire predictions from Deutsche Bank may be overblown, but there is some substance in what they say and I would highlight this:

    “We worry about the potential disruption to Scottish trade flows, particularly with the remaining UK.”

    I’ve repeatedly pointed out that at present trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK is still based on the 1707 Treaty of Union which the SNP wishes to terminate.

    It is trade internal to an EU member state and not controlled by any EU international trade agreements; but if Scotland separated from the rest of the UK that internal trade would become international trade, and assuming that the rest of the UK was still in the EU and therefore the EU Single Market it would need the agreement of all the other EU member state governments for the newly independent Scotland to be brought into the same international market as the primary destination for its exports – exports to the rest of the UK, which account for about a third of Scottish GDP and therefore a comparable proportion of all jobs in Scotland.

    In the worst case scenario where exports to the rest of the UK stopped altogether, and exports to countries inside the EU by virtue of Scotland being part of the EU stopped altogether, and also exports to countries outside the EU under EU trade agreements stopped altogether, Scotland would lose about half of its present GDP.

    Of course the SNP answer is that Scotland would automatically remain part of the EU, so that potential problem with its trade need not even be considered; and unfortunately it seems that about half the voters in Scotland have been convinced that all the other EU member governments would instantly oblige on that even though several of them have indicated that they would not.

    This is a recurrent theme in the “yes” campaign, the promotion of delusions of grandeur in which Scotland is a great and wealthy and powerful country, and so not just the rest of the UK but the rest of the world would all do exactly what Salmond wanted.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Big business gets involved with politics all the time, so what’s the problem?

    The point about defence contractors is well made.

    What I find most depressing about the independence debate is the emphasis on the monetary arithmetic of how much better or worse off independent Scots would be; an impossible prediction over the timescale of the consequence of voting YES.

  11. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    So it’ll be a lot more Aldi/Lidl and a lot less Tesco et al. If you did not know that large companies subsidise their lossy ends somewhat then you need to read around a bit.

    Whatever anybody/business says won’t matter much…those allowed to vote don’t have enough detail to do that, and its likely that the result will be NO. Salmond will have another go after a wee while. It will cause further bitterness.

    Its all about a group of people who despise the UK as it stands. Wee Eck the gambler! Much of our problems for quite some time are as a result of Scottish related failures.

  12. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    When a journalist as distinguished as Charles Moore in the Telegraph gets very angry about the referendum, then I sit up and listen.
    It has been called very badly indeed. Just as No 10 drove away a lot of conservatives by calling UKIP fruitcakes and splitting them right down the middle, so they have done with the United Kingdom.
    Scotland has been simply taken for granted for far too long. Also the referendum was shoddily put together in the first place. Then Mr Salmond was left to get on with it. Now the campaigning is getting very angry. I personally hate this. I have never been to Scotland (except once) and the Scots I know all live here. But this is my country. I resent not being asked what I think when it breaks in half unnecessarily.

    Losing to Mr Brown, now haemorraging votes in by elections, perhaps causing the break up of my country and then facing an election. Things do not look good. And will the losing side accept a vote, which is so narrow as to be inconclusive? Then what?

    Another fine mess…

  13. Douglas Carter
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    It would be an interesting exercise in quality-control, to separate those interested parties currently promising apocalypse-Tartan between those which did, and those which did not predict precisely the same should the UK not have joined the Single Currency shortly after its continental introduction?

    Those Companies and Corporate interests and their various hangers-on which did predict economic and industrial collapse in the event of remaining outside the Eurozone can safely be absented from any justifiable qualification for such observations. It would be interesting to see how many remain in that case?

  14. Gary
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Banks firmly locked onto the central bank teat for survival, and hence locked onto the govt teat, are voting to stay locked on.

    After taking the world economy to the largest depression in 100 years, these banks should be treated with the contempt that they have earned. Whatever they say should be disregarded.

  15. NickW
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    It may be that the Company bosses are expressing personal opinions based on emotion and dressing them up in the clothes of commerce and logic; they might be better just stating their opinions in an honest fashion.

    I think the honest truth is that in the event of a Yes vote retailers would be forced to split off their Scottish operations into a separate business, not least because any association with England might prove toxic to a retail business in post-referendum Scotland. Diverging tax regimes in an Independent Scotland would make any other approach too complex to be workable.

    On the plus side, one thing an Independent Scotland can and should do is to lower road fuel duty, thereby reducing transport costs. Paying £1.40/litre or more for fuel is a crippling cost if the weekly shopping involves a forty mile round trip, which would not be unusual in rural Scotland. There are obviously parts of England where the same problems arise.
    Scotland’s biggest problem is that the Nationalist cause is very much dominated by an anti English mind set rather than pro-Scotland. Given that Scotland is dependent on England for customers for its businesses and for road links, for an Independent Scotland to be successful, this has to change.

  16. oldtimer
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis, was asked the question of the hypothetical effect of independence when commenting on the partnerships annual results; that was before the meeting that some retailers had at No 10. He answered that it would probably increase costs. That seemed a reasonable and honest response to me.

    I do agree that there are those with one eye of the Brexit/renegotiation agenda and who view intervention in this referendum as a dry run for those debates. We have been warned.

  17. Bert Young
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Retailers who have disclosed that their prices are likely to change in the event of a “Yes” vote have as much responsibility to their customers as they do to their shareholders . The many and diverse knock-0n developments are better announced beforehand than to leave it to the inevitable outcome afterwards ; customers faced with rises ought to be warned in order to balance their judgement . If the consequence of a “Yes ” vote means more tax levy , I want everyone to speak up about it and try to prevent it . The leaders of our Armed Forces have rightly spoken up together with the other leaders of all sorts of enterprises . I commend all individuals who speak up about the stupidity of this referendum and its various and diverse results .

  18. Mark B
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I am surprised at how many businesses have decided to intervene in a highly contentious referendum campaign when they have no need to do so.

    I totally agree with this statement. This is a political matter and not an economic or business one. Yes, the arguments for independence should be put to the business community and, their concerns heard and where possible, met. But to come out at this late stage tells me two things:

    1) They are dealing in matters that are none of their concerns.

    2) The SNP / YES Campaign, have not done their homework. They have had some 80 years to address the concerns of business and the people.

    They, like UKIP, are a single issue party, and should have all the foreseen outcomes and circumstances worked out.

    This whole campaign has been a complete charade. All to get the answer for those we now see running around in the media. eg Devo-Max and the Balkanization of England.

    Never assume that their is not an alternative agenda and managed outcome planned.

  19. Sue Doughty
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The companies had to do that in response to demands for clarity from shareholders and users. For instance, my English bank took over a broken Scottish bank at the credit crunch so it now has its registered office not in London where I want it to be, but in Edinburgh. Alex Salmond’s gang declared they might nationalise the banks and use the deposits therein to pay off the debts – he was quickly made to retract on the statement but it alarmed me enough to sell all shares in companies registered in Scotland and think about shifting my business to a different bank. I have been pressuring my bank to relocate the registered office to the same London address as its head office and if they do not consent to my demands in the immediate aftermath of a Yes vote I, and maybe the majority of its English customers, will switch banks.
    We know they have the Barnet formula for government spending because things are more costly, distribution and taxes, t’other side of the border. Now we know that also applies to chain stores.
    Those able to vote in that referendum need to be told the truth. I note the members of the British armed forces who regard themselves as Scots do not get a vote because they do not live there while on duty defending the Britain they signed up to lay down their lives for. Scotland has rejected all who took the King’s Shilling and they will reciprocate so what is the point of a separate part of these islands that is closest to Russia?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 15, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Cameron agreed that the franchise for the referendum would be that used for local elections in Scotland, and both Houses of the UK Parliament approved the Order in Council to enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum with that being one of the agreed conditions.

  20. Freeborn john
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I never heard a businessman or the CBI say anything useful about politics. Generally they simply defend the status quo and value “stability” above all else. One gets the feeling that they would cancel general elections if possible on the grounds that they may cause business uncertainty. Under the LibLabCon general elections decide less and less and that is just fine by the suits. I don’t believe these industrialists have any impact on public opinion, but the public would be well advised to penalise businesses who take overtly political positions with boycotts of their products.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Have you heard many politicians say anything useful about politics either?

  21. JoeSoap
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    No, I think you are wrong here.
    Any company has a duty to inform its employees and shareholders, at least, if they think something they indulge in outside work “en masse” will have an impact on the company’s performance, and hence indirectly on their returns and future employment prospects. To take an albeit absurd example let’s say a politician decided to hold a referendum for compulsory 6 month vacations from work for all, you would expect managers to warn shareholders and employees that that could affect the company’s prospects.

  22. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I should think the likes of the Russian supermarket chain Magnit and in deed one or two Chinese retail players are formulating their game plan with urgency to access a Scottish market where major Western retailers have just shot themselves in the foot.

    In regard to the Bank of England: Mr Carney was crystal clear in a verbal statement prior to the latest clarification on the position of the BOE regarding Scotland that whether Scotland could in fact avail itself of the Pound, ultimately rested with the agreement of UK political parties and, the BOE would act appropriately.

    UK political parties chose to use our national currency as a weapon in what is still an internal political argument. They have used arguments befitting a debate and electoral fight between say the SNP and other parties. I really do not know whether such pressure, such arguments which have clear negative implications and eventualities for UK residents in Scotland are not in violation of some UK law or other. One hopes so.

  23. Brigham
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I am hoping the yes vote wins. No more winging jocks, no more interference in English matters by Scottish MP’s, and no more millions spent on bribes for staying in the union.

  24. A different Simon
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    We’ve had a relatively quiet couple of years since Fukashima so if a crisis does not appear one will have to be contrived as an excuse for starting the next downleg for the masses .

    The finance sector’s propensity for giving unsolicited advice is exceeded only by it’s appetite for public bail out money .

    As is usual in these things their advice is worth only what was paid for it .

    How long before we stick the right pig ?

  25. Max Dunbar
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Businesses are perfectly entitled to air their views on the possible break-up of the UK. They and their shareholders have, after all, paid millions in business rates into the system over the years, have provided jobs for thousands of people and know what they are talking about.
    At one time businesses had a vote at council elections. Now is their chance to have a say and it would be well that the public listen to them. Jim Sillars, an old school die-hard of the Far-Left, has issued threats to businesses who have dared to support the Union. His rhetoric is similar to Aneurin Bevan’s ‘We are the masters now’ speech.

    • Monty
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, Sillars has promised to nationalise BP.

      I don’t see why businesses should not speak up, particularly in the midst of a campaign in which the main protagonists have refused to confirm their contingency plans for Scottish economic life when their risible claims for currency union, and special treatment by the EU, have crashed and burned.
      Somebody has to provide whatever information they have, to the voting public.

      With regard to the banks moving their registered offices to London, I suspect that has implications for the jurisdiction in which their Corporation Tax is payable. Presumably in order to avail themselves of the protection of the Bank of England, the tax on their profits must be payable to the UK treasury?

  26. Anthony Gould
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I met John Redwood when we both travelled together to Prague to advise the then fledgling Czechoslovak Government on privatisation. Unfortunately the British media by concentrating on his Welsh language problem and describing him as “Vulcan” ridicule the common sense he espouses regularly. Supoer Devo Max is a disaster for the rest of the UK outside Scotland and is a recruiting sergeant for UKIP. We must have a Parliament for England and I have no idea how NI and Wales can handle their affairs outside the present Union. Suoer Devo max and even Devo Max was considered not on the table until last week’s panic by Gordon Brown. It will lead to both Governments trying to encourage Banks and Big Business to stay or set up in their Country with the result that Corporate taxes will fall putting ever more strain on the private tax payer who outside Scotland will have to pay for this Super Devo Max folly. As John points out the fight for Banks/Big Business to support one or the other will intensify if Scotland votes No. Perhaps it will be better now if they vote Yes.

  27. ian
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Big business control, their the ones who took your jobs overseas, lobby for green crap for you behind your back, lobby for migrants to lower wages and to have more people in the country to buy their goods. The big companies pay next to no tax and get all the subsides from your tax”s. They get bail out by government and put it on your debt, they keep their money off shore so they do not pay tax on it. They call it company law and globalisation. Soon they will be bring robots that pay no tax and do the same work as a person and lower their pay roll tax. They control all government. Referendum on EU is for them because they no they can win and join the euro in 2020 just like they going to win the scotish referendum with help from all party the media and companies. It a bad idea to have a referendum on the EU because if vote go for yes your in forever your playing right into their hands like always. You should just keep out of it and let EU rip it self apart. The EU do not want you Big business wants you to go in with your tax”s and try to bail them out by joining the euro. They will call it bring down the barriers of doing business.

  28. outsider
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, Thank you for this wise post. Your rightly distinguish between companies that are significantly affected by political change, which have a duty to make this known publicly, particularly to their shareholders and employees, and the generality of cross-border businesses.
    As the arguments over the UK’s entry into the ERM and the eurozone illustrated, international/multinational businesses share a general opposition to borders, different currencies, different legal and regulatory regimes and any cultural differences that might impede trade. And of course Scottish separation would make many more businesses international. That business influence is generally beneficial. Open, non-state trade promotes peace and statistical prosperity.
    But citizens and communities have a right to say No, our security, identity, loyalty, morality and traditions matter more than twopence on a loaf, 2 per cent off the GDP or even half a point off the growth rate. And as the ERM and euro debates showed, the prevailing business line is often tunnel-visioned, overly simplistic or simply wrong.
    You are also rightly laying out a stall for the proposed 2017 EU referendum. The implications of the Scottish example are dire for anyone who wants us to leave the EU. Here you have a popular and predominant ruling party using all the resources of government to research, prepare and present its case and still have little hope, if polls are borne out, of scoring more than a marginal victory.
    In practical terms, there is no hope whatever of us winning an “Out” victory in 2017 if the Government parties are against, the Opposition is against, when neither the state machine nor the resources of any of the main parliamentary parties are researching or preparing the Out case and when the voice of international business will be far stronger, the voice of the EU will be at megaphone pitch, the voice of the broadcasting establishment will be shrill and even the voice of the USA will be marshaled into the scare story.

  29. ian wragg
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I think CMD and his silly cronies are being very naïve to treat the Scots to all this negative campaigning.
    I haven’t heard Clogg telling the Jocks that about 75% of what they produce goes to England and trading will immediately cease as it will if the UK leaves the EUssr.
    We seem to have different rules regarding Europe and the UK. I do hope the constant negative campaigning backfires and the Scots boycott the companies that are interfering.
    Let them plough their own socialist furrow and become a third world nation. Perhaps we can get some peace then.

  30. ian
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    People in switzerland signed a petition to have a referendum on a gold backed currency, kick the elite right in the throat, they must be sick. If the people win that mean no more printing press for switzerland and government and companies lose. I bet they will make the people suffer for that.

    • libertarian
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Ian

      Whilst I’m no fan of Fiat currencies, a gold backed currency is asking for trouble. You do know that China controls upwards of 80% of world gold.

  31. Big John
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    What we need is an English independence vote.
    If successful we would get the government we want, without the left wing Scottish, Welsh and NI MPs.
    Also no more bribes to the other regions with our money, to buy Labour votes.
    And as bonus. we will be out of the EU as well.

    will be out of the EU

  32. David Edwards
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Particularly the Deutsche Bank intervention I thought was odd, possibly made as already said by Peter Martin above that it is concerned by the implications in relation to the EU and more generally I would add in relation to supranational government. The UK has been in a bit of buggers muddle insofar as relative power/control is concerned for some time and my main hope regardless of yes or no is that now we will at least consider further how it may become fairer for everyone.

  33. ian
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Years of civil unrest to come in scotland which ever way the vote go”s lucky they have got no arms, salmond has said he will not be calling for a another vote if this one is no,i can see why, at each others throats. USA going from bad to worst, all numbers and data come in out of the country are massaged and manipulated to fleece the sheep. Bankruptcy will be rising soon, they are in the midst of a inventory disaster, 80 percent discounts, some malls have more shop for sale then open and they keep on building them.

  34. matthu
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Janet Daley in The Telegraph today has this to say:

    “The business of government is seen as having become the property of a club whose attitudes and priorities are self-consciously fashionable, urban and “liberal” (in the specialised self-appointed sense of that word), and who openly despise all those parts of the electorate who do not conform to their ideal picture of what a modern society should be. What the various anti-politics protest movements have gathered is that this Westminster-Washington-Brussels consensus is remarkably illiberal (in the true sense of the word).

    There is to be no arguing or debating with its assumptions because those who oppose it are simply beneath contempt: fascists, reactionaries, bigots, provincial know-nothings. And this derisive dismissal cuts right across party lines. Compare Gordon Brown’s description of the Labour-voter who dared to express her anxiety about immigration as just a “bigoted woman”, with the sentiment expressed recently by a Tory commentator that the Clacton voters who could not accept the party’s modernising agenda should be ignored until they die off. This is a degree of open, undisguised contempt for the electorate that is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime.

    New structures will help only if we can rebuild respect and civility between the mass of the people and those who presume to govern them. “

    The effect of this can readily be seen whenever there is “debate” about the cost and benefits of remaining in the EU. But also debate about immigration, housing, redefiniton of marriage, climate change, erection of wind turbines and on and on i.e. you never hear proper debate about any of these. All you get is contempt for the electorate, contempt for the “deniers”.

    All part of the great disconnect between Westminster and the people. (Convincing yourself there won’t be any UKIP MPs at all after the next election is also part of the great disconnect…)

    • matthu
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      oddly, the Observer today echoes almost the identical opinion:

      “The decision by the three main Westminster parties – spooked by a poll showing the yes campaign in the lead – to make significant promises of more devolved power revealed how remote they are from the political and cultural winds swirling in Scotland. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg had 18 months but they waited until the last 10 days to spell out just how profound devolution could be. It wasn’t a terrific advertisement for how well the union is working.”

      Cameron, Miliband and Clegg all calculate that they can continue steam-rollering us all into their vision of the EU without having to persuade anybody of the benefit of doing so. All three rely on being able to scare the electorate into backing away from independence at the critical moment.

      One wonders how their strategy will evolve now after the big scare they all received last week. If any of them are still around.

      • matthu
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Of course, one does wonder whether Cameron’s yet-to-be-negotiated position with the EU will be even half as well-articulated at the time of any promised referendum as devo max has been at the time of the Scottish referendum.

        Nothing on the table yet, and for very good reason: the House of lords has decreed that

        Whereas both the UK Government and the Scottish Government have recognised that independence is a Scottish question, “devolution max” is not. Proper constitutional process requires that negotiations involving all parts of the United Kingdom precede any referendum on an agreed scheme of “devolution max.”

        Good luck getting that past the electorate in its present form.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Matthu – Janet Daley hits the nail square on the head with that one.

      It isn’t just the ‘various anti-politics movements’ which have gathered these things. A huge number of people have all by themselves.

      The no longer feel welcome in their own country.

  35. Kenneth
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I am very pleased to sign up for to your campaign for England to have its own Parliamentary sittings.

    However, please be aware that your words were used by the BBC on ‘Westminster Hour’ (radio4) on Sunday 14th September to promote the English regions devolution idea favoured by one of the BBC’s funders, the eu.

    You may need to watch these vested interests misrepresenting you in this way as your campaign could be used as part of a Trojan horse to push eu/Labour/BBC policy.

  36. Steve Cox
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    There have been so many distortions, half lies, twisted facts, fantasies and outright lies told by both sides during this campaign that it has probably become impossible for the intelligent undecided voters to make a reasoned decision with their heads. Instead I suspect that many of them will realise that the only sensible way they can decide which side to vote for is with their hearts, and that may well mean more votes for the Yes camp on Thursday.

  37. Roy Grainger
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I am not surprised you are concerned as what the companies are saying now will be nothing to what they will say when (if) the EU vote comes along. I suppose some of it is due to the strict regulations imposed (by politicians) on companies to disclose any material facts which may impact their business.

  38. David Price
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Business interacts with government all the time and given the scale of change I think there should be more information on the cold realities of the change rather than simply relying on the deceits and posturing put about by SNP.

    It should be noted that Jim Sillars has been allowed back on board the SNP and has already threatened a reckoning with BP and the banks (according to the Spectator), so I would expect business to be very concerned with how things will develop. Even if Scotland votes “no”, devo max will give greater financial powers so everyone should be aware of the risks and consequences.

    For my part I looked at the following, Financial services contributes around £8b a year to a GDP of around £132b including pro-rata extra-regio income (ie offshore). However this industry that Sillars is threatening represents about £800b of funds under management with approx 90% of the customers being in the rest of the UK.

    Even if there wasn’t a threat of rape and pillage of accounts and funds by the nats the Scottish economy could not offer sufficient protective cover of that scale of funds based on it’s present GDP. The Scottish financial sector is only large and able to contribute so much to their because it can operate under the umbrella of the UK.

    With independence there will come an adjustment, business and fund managers will be forced to move if only to retain the protective “insurance” of the UK away from the irresponsible threats and promises of Salmond et al. Unfortunately, the UK politicians are also guilty of irresponsible promises with the mashed together offers of devo max. Nowhere is safe from these idiots.

    • Monty
      Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      David, am I right in assuming that if the financial sector corporations move their registered offices to England, the taxes on their profits become payable to the UK, and not the Scottish Treasury?

      • David Price
        Posted September 16, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        Monty, I am not a financial professional and the above is my personal opinion, it is not intended as advice. My current understanding is as you describe though companies can manipulate where they pay tax through processes such as transfer pricing. Looking a the domicile of a company or investment would be one aspect of risk assessment and people need to talk to a financial advisor to get proper advice and assessment.

        The whole situation is a mess and no-one understands all the consequences, financial or otherwise. It strikes me that this is exactly what the pro independence camp want as then the decision will be emotional rather than rational.

        • David Price
          Posted September 16, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          Monty – on reflection my reply looks a bit of a cop out.

          My personal assessment of the siutaion is that the risks of any of my Scottish holdings (shares, funds, bank accounts) being adversely affected have increased. With all the uncertainty as to what will actually happen, SNP pronouncements on the issue of debt, Jim Sillar’s threats and the viceral negative attitude of the scots nats to anything English I’ve decided to move everything out of Scotland and in to England et al.

  39. Terry
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Business leaders may do as they wish but we English voters have had no say.

    The killer is the wording of the question. “Should Scotland be an Independent country”? Of course the natural answer to that is, “Yes”. Exactly the same answer it would be for the English in their own independence referendum.

    Why Mr Cameron would permit the SNP to control every aspect of this referendum is beyond my comprehension and it is the main reason why it’s such a close call. Allowing ALL resident non-Scots, with absolutely no affiliation with the UK but at the same time, denying a vote to all ex-pat Scots is just blatant electioneering. Yet, Mr Salmond was allowed to get away with this too.
    It is blindingly obvious that the whole referendum is so heavily biased for the SNP that questions must be asked of Mr Cameron of why he gave away so much in return for absolutely nothing. The only pluses he has from this debacle is the gratitude of the Catalans down in Spain who hope this will set a precedent for their own independence from Madrid. A fat lot of use that is to the English citizens of this country and it’s all because it was not fully thought through and never expertly negotiated by our PM. It is abundantly clear that he had no consultations with the Banks nor key business up North. Had he down so he would have learned all of this before the fact and may have taken proper charge. But he did not and now ‘ it’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into’. With thanks to Oli.

  40. john robertson
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    On the financial firms I tend to disagree, which is unusual. People with pensions and savings could find themselves with investments in a foreign country. That country would have no FSCS, PPF nor central bank. A country the leader of which has boasted about defaulting on debt so could assume a potential foreign asset transfer tax. In addition the main parties of Holyrood all support a FTT. With circa 90% of their assets under management from the rest of the UK they need to send a message to those customers that they don’t need to transfer their money to a non Scottish firm as they will be re domilciling their assets for them.

    Shareholders also need to know that the assets need to be re domiciled or they will pull their weighting if they don’t obviously.

    It has been a very awkward call for the bit Scottish financial institutions but they know where their real profits and assets are from. RBS said not real loss of job numbers but omitted to say where they would be, the fine line being tred in their wording. UK customers and shareholders needed the reassurance of where their money would be domiciled, that was correct to prevent a mass exodus of money and shareholders.

    I recall a corridor conversation of CEO’s in this industry about 15 months ago on this issue. The Scots are anti them, they say the truth and they will face a Scottish exodus but they need to get a message out to their biggest shareholders and customers, the English.

    They are not in an easy position but feel they have put the message out and their share prices would support that.

    On supermarkets well weren’t the Royal Mail complaining that as they have to deliver to all parts of the UK they find it difficult to compete with the private companies that cherry pick the cities and towns to deliver too. Not to do with indy.

  41. john robertson
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    So yes the Scots may boycot Scottish financial firms but those firms value their English money and shareholders more and have sent the message out that they don’t need to transfer money to an existing UK firm.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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