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.