Banks Warn: “Vote No For Scottish Independence, Or Be Damned”


Contributed by Jurriaan Maessen

As the race between aye- and naysayers intensifies in the run up to September 18, banks and politicians alike are resorting to increasingly desperate attempts to sway the Scottish vote in favor of the status quo.

One of the tactics employed by the Nay-campaign would make the whole Scottish independence issue entirely about good old “tory versus labour”-squabbling on the part of a disgruntled Scottish electorate, just to give the “effing Tories a kick”, as Cameron put it. Although a convincing case can be made for the proposition that party politics plays some role in the recent surge experienced by the Aye-campaign (a movement rather, as opposed to the Nay-people), it doesn’t entirely explain the soaring kinetics occurring of late.

In the last couple of weeks the No-campaign has been going out of its way to impress upon the Scottish people that a Yes-vote would cause catastrophe. Military “strategists” have threatened with the specter of war, hilariously claiming an independent Scotland will leave itself vulnerable to an invasion by a Russian fleet just waiting to waltz over Scotland’s unprotected shores. Others have tried to impress upon undecided voters that Ebola will ravage Edinburgh without the guarding hand of Westminster holding back the killer virus.

In the words of renegade Irish warrior Stephen in the prelude to the Battle of Stirling in Mel Gibson’s 1995 classic Braveheart: “The Almighty says this must be a fashionable fight. It’s drawn the finest people.” Indeed. In the last couple of days we’ve seen all kinds of dignitaries pleading, begging, sighing, growling and despairing in the face of possible defeat.

Not two days ago an emotional David Cameron plead with Scottish voters to remain within the UK, and after wiping the tear from his eye, adding an “or else” that would instill fear on the fearless. Simultaneously, some banks and businesses have fired warning shots along the same lines, holding out a prospect of apocalypse if the Scots decide to forsake the union in the upcoming referendum.

As BP’s Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley recently pointed out: “BP has been in the UK North Sea for 50 years and we hope to operate here for many years to come”, in effect saying that it will reconsider a business relationship with Scotland in case the vote sways towards independence. In other words take heed, warns Dudley. A Yes-vote would make BP shift their operations away from Scottish waters and move to other areas where money is to be made.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has issued a firm statement, namely that a withdrawal from what Cameron describes as “this family of nations” would make the bank’s eye drift away from Scotland, “re-domicile the bank’s holding company”, leaving the people there to fend for themselves. Lloyds Banking Group has also weighed in, saying it would resort to equally drastic measures if the Scots were to detach themselves from the rest of the UK: “(…) we have contingency plans in place which include the establishment of new legal entities in England”, the banking group exclaimed.

The underlying motive of both banks for issuing such sharp statements is not hard to establish. Both Lloyds and RBS are partly owned by the British government, and will therefore be affected in one way or another if the pendulum sways to the Aye-camp. In case of an independent Scotland, both of them would have to redirect all of their legal entities to London, lest they be considered Scottish banks in an independent Scotland, and by extension cut themselves completely off from the government-lifeline, becoming in effect “forfeit”.

Despite the veiled threats by seemingly panicking banks an actual transfer of wealth would hurt them as much as it would hurt Scotland. Despite possible risks to the economy, many economists have argued that independence would also give an expected boost to the national economy. For example: at this time Scottish fishery accounts for over 60% of the total catch in the UK. The Spanish and French factory ships now emptying Scottish territorial waters will no longer be able to do so, allowing the Scottish fishery to set their own quota’s and regulate their own industry. An independent Scotland would export fish to whoever wants to import it, including the UK, allowing the nation to generate huge profits from which the banks will then be able to earn interest. It is highly doubtful the before mentioned banks would miss out on a slice of the profits.

People who until very recently would vote no to independence without giving it another thought, are now reconsidering their position as the decisive date draws near. The Nay-people on their part are becoming increasingly desperate with the prospect of defeat looming. So you may expect an increase in horror-stories in the days to come, designed to dissuade the scots to vote for independence. Instead of the fear-instilling effect the repeated scare stories are supposed to have, it may very well have quite the opposite effect. The target audience consists after all of a people not easily rattled by grimacing and gesturing English bankers and politicians with an agenda. Stories designed to alarm sheep only anger the lion.

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