THE Royal Bank of Scotland and the 3200-strong workforce at its Gogarburn headquarters were today at the centre of the latest row over independence after Business Secretary Vince Cable claimed the bank would “inevitably” relocate its HQ to London after a ‘Yes’ vote.
Mr Cable told a committee of MPs that RBS, founded in Edinburgh in 1727, would want to be in the same country as the lender of last resort – the Bank of England.
But the SNP has branded his comments “ridiculous”.
RBS was bailed out by taxpayers after it came close to collapse in the 2008 banking crisis and is still 80 per cent publicly-owned. It employs 12,000 staff in Scotland,
At Westminster’s business innovation and skills committee, Glasgow North East Labour MP Willie Bain asked what RBS might do if the Bank of England was no longer its “lender of last resort”.
Mr Cable replied: “I think if you were managing RBS you would almost certainly want to be in a domicile where your bank is protected against the risk of collapse.
“I think they already have a substantial amount of their management in London and I would have thought that inevitably they would become a London bank.”
Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir dismissed the comments as “another example of the usual scare stories”.
He said: “Even once the UK Government in finished with it, RBS will be a global player. Its headquarters are here, it does a lot of business in London and all around the world. There is no reason for it to shift its headquarters.
“Vince Cable is a Liberal Democrat and a unionist – he will paint the darkest picture possible for anything. But their doom and gloom stories are one of the reasons the ‘Yes’ campaign is picking up momentum.”
Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart said if an independent Scotland were able to agree a full monetary union with the rest of the UK, there would be no reason for RBS to move headquarters.
But he said different banking regulations north and south of the border could force its hand.
Mr Crockart said: “There would be a pull for banks in Scotland to move their headquarters south, where they will gain from the stability of the regulatory system that’s already in place.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Vince Cable’s ridiculous comments are at odds with the common sense remarks from RBS’s chief executive, who last week said that if they had to operate in 39 countries around the world rather than 38, that is exactly what they would do.
“Mr Cable has unwittingly highlighted exactly why polls show the vast majority of people in the rest of the UK would expect the Westminster Government to agree to a currency union with Scotland.”
RBS said: “We don’t support political parties or political movements. We will respond to what voters decide and governments agree.”