Business World

Friday 19 September 2014

Shell, Barclays and Lloyds warn Scotland over independence

Andrew Critchlow and James Quinn

Published 06/03/2014 | 08:56

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Three FTSE 100 companies have spoken for the first time of the potential problems should Scotland leave the UK.

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Royal Dutch Shell, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays have warned of the economic risks of the Scottish people voting in favour of independence.

In moves which are likely to intensify the debate north of the border, the three FTSE 100 companies have spoken for the first time of the potential problems should Scotland leave the UK.

Ben van Beurden, chief executive of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, said: “We’d like to see Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom.

“Shell has a long history of involvement in the North Sea – and therefore in Scotland – and we have continued to invest heavily there.”

In a speech to a reception in London on Wednesday night , Mr Van Burden said that one of the many things his company values about the UK “is the continuity and stability it offers”.

“Given a choice, we want to know as accurately as possible what investment conditions will look like 10 or 20 years from now,” he said.

Mr Van Burden likened Scotland’s place in the UK to the UK’s place in the European Union – which he also supports – saying it all came down to economic competitiveness.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish government agree with Shell that the real risk facing the oil and gas sector is the proposed in-out referendum on EU membership, which risks taking Scotland out of Europe with all the consequences for jobs, investment and prosperity that would entail.

"We would be happy to meet with Shell to discuss the future of the oil and gas industry in an independent Scotland. As Ed Daniels, chairman of Shell UK, has acknowledged, the independence debate is a matter for the Scottish people. A recent Oil and Gas UK poll showed that 70pc of oil workers planned to vote for independence.

"Industry has significant confidence in the opportunities presented in the North Sea. Combined, operators, including Shell, have around £100bn-worth of investment planned for the North Sea. And with more than half of oil and gas reserves by value still to be extracted, that investment will continue after independence.

"Shell is a company which already operates in more than 40 independent countries around the globe, and an independent Scotland with full control of its economy and huge resources will offer an attractive and stable environment for businesses in the offshore and other sectors."

Lloyds, meanwhile, used the publication of its annual report to caution investors on the problems that could be caused by a “yes” vote.

The bank, which is domiciled in Scotland, said the outcome of September’s vote on independence, while uncertain, could have a “material impact” in a number of key areas, including tax and cost of funding.

Barclays, despite having a relatively small Scottish footprint, said the referendum, along with the UK’s possible European Union vote in 2017, could affect the bank’s risk profile by “introducing potentially significant new uncertainties and instability in financial markets”.

The trio of warnings come a week after Standard Life and the Royal Bank of Scotland warned that a “yes” vote would pose a serious risk to their respective businesses.

The two financial services specialists were the first companies to put their heads above the parapet on the subject of independence. It followed months of speculation, on both sides of the border, as to growing concern among the business and finance community about the risks posed by an independent Scotland.

Lloyds made its warning in a brief section in its annual report, cautioning: “The impact of a 'yes’ vote in favour of Scottish independence is uncertain. The outcome could have a material impact on compliance costs, the tax position, and cost of funding for the group.”

To mitigate such risks, the bank said it will monitor and assess the potential impact on both its business and on customers.

The statement follows The Telegraph’s report two weeks ago that TSB – which is wholly owned by Lloyds – will be domiciled in England rather than Scotland for tax purposes.

Earlier this week, Scoban, Scotland’s newest bank, admitted it is “concerned” by the prospect of the country voting for independence. The new private bank, which only gained its banking licence this week, said it was worried about currency issues an independent Scotland would face.

Telegraph.co.uk

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