EDINBURGH will suffer more than any other part of Scotland if there is a Yes vote in the independence referendum, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has claimed.
He warned jobs in the Capital’s crucial financial services sector would be at risk if the country were to leave the UK.
But Nationalists dismissed his comments and insisted as the capital of a newly-independent country, Edinburgh would attract more businesses.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Mr Alexander said: “The economy of Edinburgh is the part of the Scottish economy that benefits most from being in the UK.
“The financial services sector, the insurance and pensions sectors are so strong in Edinburgh, serving customers across the whole of the UK, and it benefits from the strong and stable regulatory framework across the whole of the UK. Tens of thousands of jobs in Edinburgh depend on that.
“It’s very clear that voting for independence would put an awful lot of those jobs at risk because you would be separating many of these companies from 85-90 per cent of their customers, in different regulatory regimes and different tax policies potentially.
“That’s why I welcome some of the comments that have been made by the likes of Standard Life and other businesses in the sector because I think it’s really important people understand that one of the main sources of Edinburgh’s prosperity is hugely dependent on the benefits of being part of a wider United Kingdom.”
Capital-based Standard Life has said it is making contingency plans to transfer parts of its operations to England if it judges such a move necessary in the event of a Yes vote and other companies have signalled concerns about independence.
Mr Alexander acknowledged independence might attract fresh employment, but said it would be nowhere near enough to make up for the potential job losses. He said: “I’m sure you would have other countries wanting to set up embassies and that would create a few hundred jobs, but that would be massively outweighed.
“If the SNP’s answer for Edinburgh is foreign governments opening embassies, I’m afraid it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the impact independence would have on the Edinburgh economy.”
Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi said it was unedifying to see Mr Alexander “taking such glee” at the prospect he outlined.
Mr Biagi added: “No companies have said they are leaving Edinburgh. Edinburgh would be the Capital of a newly-independent country and extremely attractive for incoming businesses as well as a better place for new businesses to grow.”