Banking giant RBS would move its headquarters from Scotland to London in the event of a vote to take the country out of the UK, the boss of its parent company has said.
Alison Rose, chief executive of the NatWest Group, said while the issue of independence is one for Scots to decide, the bank’s balance sheet would be “too big for an independent Scottish economy”.
The Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh almost three centuries ago in 1727.
Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said confirmation that independence would see it move its base away from the Scottish capital “starkly confirms the very real consequences for Scottish jobs and business if Nicola Sturgeon ever gets her way”.
Mr Fraser insisted: “For the historic Royal Bank of Scotland to be forced to leave Scotland in the event of the break-up of Britain would be devastating.”
His comments came after Ms Rose told the Herald newspaper: “As you know, we are neutral on the issue of Scottish independence – it is something for the Scottish people to decide.
“We have been very clear, and it is recognised by senior nationalists, that in the event that there was independence in Scotland, our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy, and we would move our registered headquarters… to London.”
Her remarks came just days before Scots go to the polls in the Holyrood election, with the SNP pushing to win a majority of seats in the hope of securing a second referendum on independence.
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK Scotland in Union campaign group, said: “As part of the UK, Scotland has a thriving financial services industry providing high quality jobs and income.
“Losing the RBS HQ to London would be a hammer blow for the country’s reputation as a place to invest and work.
“As a new and smaller economy, a separate Scotland would be at greater risk of shocks, and we would be gambling with people’s livelihoods by scrapping the pound and building a border with England.
“The last thing our economy needs as we enter the Covid recovery period is more uncertainty, which is why the SNP should drop its obsession with a divisive and reckless referendum.”
Scottish Government trade minister Ivan McKee insisted: “The SNP is focused on getting Scotland through and out of the pandemic and into recovery – as the plans we have set out today for the first 100 days of an SNP government show.
“If we are re-elected we will immediately deliver support for our NHS, protection for jobs and help for our children and young people.”
Mr McKee added: “As the chief executive of the NatWest Group makes clear, Scotland’s future is for the people of Scotland to decide and the bank, which is not talking about moving its operations but simply its registered address, has no view on that.
“Scotland is already one of the most attractive places in the world to do business, and the evidence clearly shows that Scotland has the talent and ambition to build a prosperous economy, drive economic recovery and raise competitiveness.”