EDINBURGH: The battle for the hearts and heads of the Scottish people intensified on Thursday as two banks said they would shift their registered head offices to London if Scotland voted to break away from the United Kingdom in a referendum next week.
The warning from Edinburghbased Lloyds and RBS put the independence campaign on the defensive and followed a new poll which showed a slender lead for those wishing to keep the 307year long union with England.
And the Scotsman newspaper, in a front-page editorial on Thursday, announced its verdict on the choice: `We are better together.
The latest developments heightened the drama and the passions surrounding the historic referendum.
In the past week, polls had shown a surge in support for the independence campaign led by Alex Salmond`s Scottish NationalParty, and it appeared they were on a march to victory in next Thursday`s vote.
That prompted Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Ed Miliband of the opposition Labour Party to head to Scotland on Wednesday to make emotional appeals for Scots to stay within `Britain`s family of nations` The pro-independence camp says it is time for Scots to rule their own country and build a fairer society without being told what to do by a political elite in London. The campaign for staying together says Scotland is more prosperous and secure within the United Kingdom, and says an independent nation would struggle to be economically viable.
The unanswered questions of what currency Scotland would use and what central bank it would have led to alarm in the corporate world as well as weigh-ing on voters` minds.
Dutch insurer Aegon NV also said on Thursday it would set up a new registered life company in England if Scotland exited the union.
The company said policies for its non-Scottish customers in the UK would continue to be in sterling and that it would support any different currency for Scottish based customers.
Thursday`s announcements by Edinburgh-based Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland both part-owned by the British government were greeted by the `No` campaign as bolstering their position.
Lloyds bank, which is 25 per cent-owned by the British government and controls Bank of Scotland, said its contingency plans included setting up `legal entities in England`, a move that would not affect its business.
RBS said it would be necessary to re-domicile its holding com-pany. TSB Banking Group, which is part-owned by Lloyds, said it was likely to relocate some operations to England.
Lloyds` headquarters are in London but its registered office is in Edinburgh. RBS senior management is based in London but its registered offices are in Edinburgh. The location of a company`s registered office, its legal home, is what dictates its regulatory and tax regime.
No RBS job cuts RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan told staff that moving the registered ofñces did not mean it would cut jobs in Scotland or move operations away, and it would not affect its day-to-day services.
`This is a technical procedure regarding the location of our registered head ofHce. It is not an intention to move operations or jobs,` McEwan said in a memoseen by Reuters.
Salmond seized on McEwan`s comments to dismiss the significance of the moves. He accused the British government of orchestrating a campaign among corporate leaders to talk negatively about independence.
`I thinl< the people of Scotland have moved beyond these warnings and these scaremongerings, he told a news conference.
John Swinney, finance minister in the SNP-led Scottish government, told the BBC that the banks` announcements were a result of the British government`s refusal to agree to a formal currency union with an independent Scotland.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has raised questions about currency arrangements in an independent Scotland, saying it would need stockpiles of sterling if it adopted the pound without an agreement with the rest of the United Kingdom.-Reuters