THE Royal Bank of Scotland remained tight-lipped today as a fresh row raged over a possible threat to the jobs of its Edinburgh workforce if Scots vote for independence.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney told MPs yesterday there was a “distinct possibility” that RBS would have to leave Scotland if there was a “Yes” vote in the September 18 referendum.
A European directive requires banks to have their head offices in the same state as their registered offices.
Opposition parties seized on Mr Carney’s comment to claim that thousands of jobs in the Capital were under threat from independence.
However, RBS refused to be drawn on its interpretation of the EU requirement or the implications for its estimated 7000 jobs in Edinburgh.
A spokeswoman said: “RBS’s main focus is to be a really good bank for customers and to support the economy. On the issue of independence we are politically neutral. We don’t support political parties or political movements. We will respond to what voters decide and governments agree.”
Mr Carney was giving evidence to the Treasury select committee when he was asked if he believed RBS would have to leave if an independent Scotland joined the EU. He replied: “It’s a distinct possibility but I shouldn’t prejudge it. It depends on their arrangements as well, if they were to adjust more into Scotland the minor management of the institution.”
Labour’s Cathy Jamieson said Mr Carney was “as clear as he could be” that major banks would most likely move their headquarters south of the Border, costing thousands of Scottish jobs.
However, Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi said he did not believe jobs were at risk.
He said: “The EU directive being referred to, as well as never having been legally tested, is intended to stop governments being played off against each other by companies looking to base themselves in the country with weaker regulation.
“Since the Scottish Government proposes a harmonised approach between Edinburgh and London, this would not be an issue. RBS have stated that Scotland is a great place to do business. As chief executive Ross McEwan has said, RBS works in 38 countries and with independence it would be 39.”