Pensions and savings giant Standard Life is preparing to transfer parts of its business to England if Scotland votes in favour of independence.
The Edinburgh-based company, which has been based in Scotland for 189 years, said pensions, investments and other long-term savings held by UK consumers could be moved south of the Scottish border in order to “help to ensure continuity and peace of mind”.
It said the precautionary plans are being put in place due to continued uncertainty over a range of key issues, including the currency that an independent Scotland would use, the approach to taxation and the arrangements for consumer protection in the event of a Yes vote.
A statement from the company’s chief executive David Nish said the potential moves would ensure that all transactions with customers outside of Scotland continue to be in Sterling and all customers outside Scotland continue to be part of the UK tax regime.
It said: “In view of the uncertainty around Scotland’s constitutional future, we have put in place precautionary measures which would help enable us to provide customers with continuity.
“This includes planning for new regulated companies in England to which we could transfer parts of our business if there was a need to do so.
“This transfer of our business could potentially include pensions, investments and other long-term savings held by UK customers.”
The firm said that if Scotland votes Yes, “we understand it would be at least 18 months before Scotland could become a separate country from the United Kingdom”.
It promised that during this period of “continued constitutional uncertainty”, it will take “whatever action is required to protect our customers’ interests and maintain our competitiveness in the markets in which we operate”.
Standard Life, one of the Capital’s biggest employers, said the contingency plan will also mean that all customers outside Scotland continue to be covered by existing UK protections, such as the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which is the UK’s savings safety net and pays out up to £85,000 to a consumer if the financial firm they hold money with goes bust.
The firm has previously issued pleas for clarity over issues surrounding Scotland’s future, highlighting the concerns it has had about these uncertainties for its four million customers, its shareholders and staff.
The company, which employs about 5,000 people in Scotland out of a total headcount of 8,500, has around £254 billion of assets under administration.
It said it will continue to be listed on the London Stock Exchange and in the event of a No vote, which could see more powers transferred to Scotland, it will “monitor any impact that this may have on our stakeholders and take whatever action we feel is required”.
The statement continued: “Standard Life has a long history in Scotland - a heritage of which we are very proud and we hope that this continues but our responsibility is to protect the interests of our customers, our shareholders, our people and other stakeholders in our business.”
The FSCS said in a statement that if Scotland votes in favour of independence, it expects consumers will continue to have their money protected by it in the same way as they do now during the transitional period.
It said: “FSCS protects consumers in UK authorised banks up to £85,000. We cannot speculate at this time on what the Scottish referendum might mean for consumers. This will depend on decisions to be taken by the Scottish government.
“However, EU directives place a clear requirement on countries in the EU to provide a deposit scheme. The current European limit is 100,000 euro.
“The matter of Scottish independence is for the Scottish voters to decide. If the vote is in favour of Scottish independence, there is likely to be a transitional period.
“During any such period, we expect consumers will continue to be protected by the FSCS as at present, and compensation cover would continue unaffected.”