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May 30, 2017

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Companies weigh in on Scottish independence

LONDON--Six months before Scotland votes in a referendum on whether to become independent from the rest of Britain, major companies are going public on their plans whatever the outcome.

Firms ranging from Royal Bank of Scotland to British Airways and Royal Dutch Shell are stating their positions ahead of Scotland voting on whether to end its 300-year-old union with England.

British PM David Cameron's Conservatives, their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats and the opposition Labour party have joined forces to campaign for a "no" vote.

But First Minister Alex Salmond's governing Scottish National Party is in the "yes" camp and wants Scotland's 5.3 million people to quit the UK.

Scotland has enjoyed increased autonomy since a 1997 referendum on devolution but the SNP now wants full independence.

Some companies have said they would be opposed to an independent Scotland, but the overriding sentiment is one of concern about the uncertainty.

"The referendum in September is creating uncertainty for our customers and our business, which we have a responsibility to address," said Katherine Garrett-Cox, chief executive of Scotland-based investment manager Alliance Trust.

"Regardless of the outcome, it is critical that we are able to provide continuity of service and protection for their investments and savings.

"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."

Also last week, financial services group Standard Life warned that it may move some of its operations out of Scotland if it votes for independence.

RBS Predicts Major Impact

RBS added that there would likely be a "significant impact" if Scotland chose to end its union with England, placing renewed pressure on Salmond ahead of the vote.

A key issue in the debate is the currency of an independent Scotland, with Edinburgh saying it would keep the pound sterling but London saying that would not be possible.

"We have started work to establish additional registered companies to operate outside Scotland, into which we could transfer parts of our operations if it was necessary to do so," said Standard Life chief executive David Nish.

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