Business

Business 'relief' over Scotland's rejection of independence

'No' supporters celebrate Image copyright AP
Image caption 'No' supporters celebrated the outcome of the referendum

Many businesses have spoken of 'relief' over Scotland's rejection of independence, but said the "No" vote was the start of a period of change.

However, banking giant RBS said it would not now move its head office to London.

The bank said it would be "business as usual for all our customers across the UK".

Businesses in favour of independence were "disappointed" with the referendum outcome.

No move south?

Financial services companies including RBS, Lloyds, TSB, Standard Life, Clydesdale, and Tesco Bank had indicated that they would move headquarters or parts of the business south if Scotland had voted "Yes".

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," it added.

Standard Life confirmed that it would not be moving any operations to England.

"They've [the plans have] been shelved for now. We've no plans to move any of our operations," a Standard Life spokesman said.

Lloyds Banking Group said it "remains committed to having a significant presence in Scotland."

However, BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed said that the response from Lloyds was "far more equivocal" than the one from RBS.

"I am told the bank did not want to make a final statement on its legal home until other, significant, regulatory matters are dealt with," he said in a blog post.

"That, sources tell me, includes 'ring-fencing' - the government's proposals to split retail and investment banking. Lloyds wants to keep its options open until those plans are finalised, which is not likely to happen until 2018," he added.

The Bank of England, which had contingency plans in the event of a "Yes" vote for independence, declined to comment.

'Momentous day'

Business lobbying groups said that firms were "relieved" over the outcome of the vote.

The CBI said "business has always believed that the Union is best for creating jobs".

"This is a momentous day for our United Kingdom and this result will be greeted by a collective sigh of relief across the business community," said John Cridland, CBI director general.

However, the group warned that devolution should not "undermine the strength of the single internal market".

Pro-independence group Business for Scotland said that it was "disappointed that the opportunity to improve Scotland through independence has been lost."

"Huge credit due to the Scottish people who have, by and large, conducted the biggest political debate there is with good grace, good manners and some sparkling wit," said Business for Scotland chairman Tony Banks.

"Like others who campaigned for a Yes vote, I'll continue campaigning for a better Scotland. We won't have all the tools that we would have had after a Yes vote but we'll all do what we can to improve things as much as possible."

Business group the Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland said that political groups and businesses needed to "get together to focus on growth".

"Greater fiscal and political autonomy for Scotland are on the way and previously opposing groups now need to work together, and with the business sector, to make sure that the outcome is successful," said IoD Scotland executive director David Watt.

Burning question

One of the key issues of the referendum was the outcome for Scotland's oil and gas industry in the event of a "Yes" or "No" vote.

Government policy on taxation of Scottish energy resources is now one of the issues to be decided as Scotland is granted powers under further devolution.

Oil & Gas UK, a lobbying group for the energy industry, called for the government to press "swiftly ahead with fiscal reform".

It added that recommendations to "maximise the economic recovery of our oil and gas resource" should be implemented.

Energy giant Shell added that the decision for Scotland to remain in the UK "reduces the operating uncertainty for businesses based in Scotland."

Supermarket backlash?

Lord Haskins, former chairman of Northern Foods, said there could be "consequences" for supermarkets that took positions supporting a "No" vote. He told the BBC there was a danger supermarkets could be shunned by shoppers.

John Lewis, which in the build-up to the referendum had said that prices could rise in Scotland in the event of a 'Yes' vote, said it had no comment to make.

Asda, which had also warned of price rises, said: "The Scottish market is important to us."

"I always said that it was for the Scottish people to decide their own future in a democratic referendum," said Asda chief executive Andy Clarke.

"We serve 1.8 million customers every week and our single price file means that the price they pay in Perth is the same as they would pay in Portsmouth, irrespective of higher operating costs. That is a point of difference for our business and something of which we are very proud."

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