Editor's Viewpoint - Scottish Independence - It's Okay to Have an Opinion
Scotland will vote on its independence from the UK on 18 September
On Thursday 18 September, the residents of Scotland will take to the polls to consider a question, their answer to which could have huge repercussions:
"Should Scotland be an independent country?"
With just over six months to go, we here in the UK are witnessing almost-daily arguments over the political, cultural and economic repercussions of a 'yes' vote. The business community has been pretty quiet on the matter, until now.
First up, Edinburgh-based pensions and savings giant Standard Life warned this morning that “if anything were to threaten [our Scottish base], we will take whatever action we consider necessary - including transferring parts of our operations from Scotland - in order to ensure continuity and to protect the interests of our stakeholders".
Meanwhile, in its annual report, also released today, the Royal Bank of Scotland has said: “A vote in favour of Scottish independence would be likely to significantly impact the group’s credit ratings and could also impact the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which the group is subject.”
What of the Scotch whisky producers among us, then? Are they equally concerned? Or, would independence benefit them?
When asked about the matter at last week's H1 results briefing in London, the head of Pernod Ricard's Chivas Brothers division, Laurent Lacassagne, wouldn't be drawn either way: "We do not think we are in the best position as a French company to express a view on the vote itself,” he said.
Late last month, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes took the same path. “We are clearly assessing all the implications of various scenarios here,” he said, before adding: "We are not engaged in picking sides."
Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association, meanwhile, is “an apolitical body” that is taking a “neutral stance” on the matter.
So, will today's noises from Standard Life and RBS provoke a more verbose opinion from the Scotch industry?
I'd hope so.
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