Alliance Trust latest to make plans for Scotland exit

Alliance Trust will join Standard Life in establishing new companies in England to mitigate negative effects for clients in the event Scotland chooses to become independent, as it becomes the latest in a growing line up of big businesses to warn on the implications of a ‘yes’ vote.

Katherine Garrett-Cox, chief executive of Alliance Trust, sets out the plans in the firm’s annual results, published this morning (7 March), in which she warns of “uncertainty” caused by the impending plebiscite and hints at ‘operational’ difficulties should voters north of the border choose to leave the UK.

She says: “The referendum in September is creating uncertainty for our customers and our business, which we have a responsibility to address. Regardless of the outcome it is critical that we are able to provide continuity of service and protection for their investments and savings.

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“To give them full confidence, we have started work to establish additional companies registered in England, in order to provide operational flexibility and to complement our existing business in Scotland.”

Last month in its own annual results, Standard Life said it too is looking at moving parts of its operation south of the border in the event of a ‘yes’ vote and had already started work on setting up new English entities.

In his chairman’s statement Gerry Grimstone emphasised that the company is “apolitical” but said that it will “take whatever action we consider necessary... in order to ensure continuity and to protect the interests of our stakeholders”.

In his chief executive’s statement, David Nish identified five key uncertainties leading up the vote, including the currency Scotland would use, whether it would continue in the European Union, the “shape” of its monetary system, regulatory arrangements and taxation.

Other large companies including Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, and Royal Dutch Shell have all separately warned that Scottish independence would come with serious economic risks.

According to a report in The Telegraph this week, Lloyds used its annual results to caution investors that a ‘yes’ vote in September could lead to problems, having a “material impact” in a number of important areas including tax and cost of funding.

Barclays meanwhile said the referendum could affect the bank’s profile by “introducing potentially significant new uncertainties and instability in financial markets”.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said in a speech that “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.”