Alliance admits vote 'uncertainty'

Investment and savings business Alliance Trust has become the latest company to highlight uncertainty created by Scotland's independence referendum.

Alliance Trust wants to ensure continuity for its customers whatever the outcome of the independence referendum
Alliance Trust wants to ensure continuity for its customers whatever the outcome of the independence referendum

The firm announced in its annual report that it will set up additional companies in England as a precaution to protect its customers regardless of the outcome of the vote on September 18.

The 125-year-old Dundee-based business is the latest in a line of companies to raise its concerns.

Generator and heating supplier Aggreko warned yesterday that Scottish independence would lead to ''years of uncertainty and hiatus'' for the business.

Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, Standard Life, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Macfarlane Group and Breedon Aggregates all listed independence in the risk management sections of their annual reports.

But other high-profile business figures have voiced support for independence, including Willie Walsh, the boss of British Airways' parent company, who said last month that a Yes vote could be a ''positive development''.

Meanwhile, Britain's largest insurance firm Aviva said that while it would watch the debate with interest, "independence is an issue for the Scottish people".

Alliance Trust has offices in Dundee, Edinburgh and London.

In a statement outlining the company's annual results, chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox said: "2014 is an important year for Scotland.

"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.

"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."

Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary in the UK Government, said: "This has been another week which has injected a real sense of reality into the independence debate.

"People should listen to what Scotland's businesses are saying about independence.

"Standard Life, RBS, Bank of Scotland, Aggreko, the Alliance Trust, BP and Shell are all warning that independence could mean higher costs and moving jobs and headquarters out of Scotland."

A Better Together spokesman said: "Alex Salmond's failure to set out credible answers on what would replace the pound and our membership of the EU means we are being asked to take a leap into the unknown.

"This is a risk we don't have to take. As part of the UK, we have the best of both worlds, with a strong Scottish Parliament and the back-up of being part of the larger UK economy."

But Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "The issues raised by Alliance Trust are entirely addressed by the propositions put forward by the Scottish Government, and show exactly why our proposals for a formal currency area are the right proposals, why they are in the best interests of business on both sides of the border, and why that is what will be implemented by both governments.

"Of course, the real threat to business comes from Westminster's 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 - and which only a vote for independence will ensure does not happen."

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said: "Many leading business figures are relaxed about independence because they realise that Scotland, regardless of the outcome of September's vote, will continue to be an excellent place to do business."

"There are also a growing number of leading business figures, including BA boss Willie Walsh, Clyde Blowers founder Jim McColl, and Klin Group chief executive Marie Macklin, who can see clearly the many advantages of a Yes vote."