Scotland jobs crisis: NatWest move would spark ‘devastating’ exodus, expert tells Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon grilled by host over UK currency union

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The SNP leader – and Scotland’s First Minister – goes to the polls on Thursday in search of the overall majority in the Scottish Parliament which she believes will propel Scotland towards a second independence referendum – and potentially an exit route from the UK. Scotland: A Trading Nation, a report published by the Scottish Government in 2017 highlighted the importance of the financial services sector to the nation’s economy, accounting for 17.2 per cent of employment and 333,460 employees.

Tax consultant Bob Lyddon suggested the numbers were unlikely to have changed dramatically since.

And he consequently urged voters to take note of the announcement by Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest, that the bank would relocate its headquarters out of Scotland in the event of independence.

Mr Lyddon, founder of Lyddon Consulting Services Ltd, told “That would cost Scotland an unstated number of high-paying financial services jobs – and also result in Scotland only taxing a small part of the bank’s profits rather than all of them.

“Now that NatWest has broken cover, others – beyond Lloyds and Virgin Money – can follow.

“There will be an exodus of Scottish Widows, Abrdn (with or without its vowels) and any other firms that manage pensions for English, Welsh or Northern Irish savers.

“These savers will not hang around to see if the cash-poor SNP tries to put a shovel into their pension pots.”

Mr Lyddon said there were also questions to be asked about whether the various Scottish banks would even continue at their current scale.

He explained: “The CEO of NatWest justified their plan on the basis of ‘balance sheet management’, whatever that means, and she then reaffirmed NatWest’s commitment to the Scottish marketplace.

“That should send a shudder through Holyrood, as it is the banking equivalent of a soccer club chairman declaring full confidence in the manager.

An independent Scotland would not merit the status of one of NatWest’s “core” countries either on its own or as part of a regional banking concept, Mr Lyddon stressed

He said: “Such Non-Core countries get starved of investment, ‘restructured’, ‘rationalised’, ‘downsized’, ‘exited’ – all variations of debanking.”

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Mr Lyddon warned: “It was not devastating to Belgium that RBS/NatWest sold off its business there to BNP-Paribas.

“But it would be devastating to Scotland if NatWest shut RBS down, and worse still if Lloyds, Virgin Money and Sabadell did something similar.

“Financial services is an extremely important sector to Scotland now, but it will fold its tents if Scotland goes independent, causing a collapse of service provision for Scottish businesses and consumers.”

Speaking on Thursday, Ms Rose said: “In the event that there was independence for Scotland our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy.

“And so we would move our registered headquarters, in the event of independence, to London.

“We are neutral on the issue of Scottish independence. It’s something for the Scottish people to decide.”

Investment bank Morgan Stanley last week put the chance of Scottish independence from the UK at 15 percent, while rival Citi put it at 35 percent.

The BBC’s Andrew Marr pressed Mrs Sturgeon to offer an assessment of the impact to Scotland’s economy of going it alone, suggesting it was “shameful” one had not yet been undertaken, especially in the light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

She replied: “”If I was asking people a week on Thursday to vote on the question whether or not Scotland should be independent then yes, I would agree with that.

“But I’m not asking people to do that on Thursday and if I was to do all that modelling now, we would have to redo it when asking people to make that choice.

“I believe it is only right to ask people to make that choice of that magnitude on the basis of quality, up-to-date information.

“That’s what we did in 2014 and it’s what we would do again.”

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