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Banks and firms signal Yes concern

Banks, businesses and Borders residents have signalled their concerns over an independent Scotland - but Alex Salmond said he has the support of the majority of the world.

RBS, Tesco Bank, TSB, Lloyds and Clydesdale Bank issued market advisories on their contingency plans in the event of independence, suggesting they may move their headquarters to England.

Mr Salmond said jobs, operations and the associated taxes would remain in Scotland, but Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said that the banks' profits could be taxed in the rest of the UK.

Mr Salmond has written to the Prime Minister and his most senior civil servant demanding an explanation for the Treasury's "deliberate attempt to cause uncertainty in the financial markets".

He has called on Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to investigate why "a Treasury source" discussed RBS plans to relocate its headquarters to London if Scotland votes for independence with the BBC several hours before it was announced to the markets.

But in a letter tonight to the First Minister, Sir Jeremy said the Treasury had simply been confirming the position after reports appeared elsewhere in the media and there had been no breach of the Ministerial Code.

"This was not a UK Government announcement - it was simply a confirmation of the Treasury's understanding of RBS' contingency planning," he wrote.

"In response to .... informed media reports about RBS, the Treasury judged that it was important to set this out - at a time when the UK financial markets were closed - given their overarching responsibility for maintaining financial stability in the UK."

Former RBS chairman and chief executive Sir George Mathewson dismissed the warnings as "UK Government-driven scaremongering and political gamesmanship", and urged Scotland to vote Yes.

And the head of the country's largest asset manager said an independent Scotland would be a big success.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, said the country could prosper regardless of the outcome of the referendum next week.

However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that a vote in favour of independence is set to spook the financial markets.

And retail giant John Lewis warned that an independent Scotland is likely to face higher prices, while supermarket giant Asda also warned of cost implications.

Meanwhile, a ComRes poll for ITV Border found two-thirds of voters in the south of Scotland intend to vote No.

Mr Salmond insisted "Scotland is on the cusp of making history" as the eyes of the world descended at an international press briefing.

He claimed support for independence from the majority of world leaders who have not spoken out for the UK.

"Given the UK Government asked every world leader to make a statement of support for their position, and given that only a handful have obliged and done so, I think we have to conclude that other world leaders said 'nein' or 'no', or whatever language they were speaking in, to that request from the Foreign Office," he said.

This view was challenged by Tory First Secretary of State William Hague, who said the UK's allies "from Sweden to China, the USA to Australia, from Canada to the Vatican" would be dismayed by Scottish independence.

"Our enemies, those who spread terror in the world, who attack our citizens and despise our common values, would be satisfied if this happens," he said.

Mr Hague failed to rule out postponing next year's general election in the event of Scotland voting for independence, in the Commons today.

Pro-Union campaigners said Mr Salmond was co-ordinating a "laughable circus".

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw described audience heckling of BBC journalist Nick Robinson at today's international press conference as an "utterly embarrassing episode".

"The foreign media must have wondered what was going on when the activist corps joined the press one," he said.

"The First Minister looked like a man in danger of losing the plot, and his conduct - and that of organisers - transformed an opportunity to interrogate Alex Salmond into a laughable circus in front of a global audience."

Pro-Union heavyweights also questioned Mr Salmond's insistence that the warnings from banks and businesses were all the result of unionist scaremongering.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "It is becoming almost comic the way you have major, major figures raising massive alarm bells about the economic consequences of independence. You can't constantly shout people down."

Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: "You can dismiss some of the warnings some of the time, but you can't dismiss all of the warnings all of the time."

Dozens of Labour Party members joined leader Ed Miliband in Glasgow.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former Northern Ireland and Welsh secretary Peter Hain appeared at a rally.

Before their arrival there were some tussles on the steps of the Royal Concert Hall as Yes supporters sought to display their placards alongside the sea of No posters. A passer-by shouted "traitors" at the group.

Elsewhere the leaders of more than 100 Scottish businesses have backed a No vote in the independence referendum.

Those giving their support to the Better Together campaign include John Boyle, chairman of investment company The Hamilton Portfolio, fashion designer Belinda Dickson and Daniel Johnson, owner of the Paper Tiger and Studio One retail chain.

Fresh doubt was also cast on the SNP's claims that independence would allow a boost in spending on the NHS by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank.

In an analysis paper co-written by IFS director Paul Johnson, it said that in the short term it was "hard to see how independence could allow Scotland to spend more on the NHS than would be possible within a Union where it will have significant tax-raising powers and considerable say over spending priorities".

And estate agents have reported that the Scottish housing market has become "static" as potential buyers wait to see whether or not the country will vote in favour of independence

It also emerged today that almost 4.3 million people are registered to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, making it the largest electorate ever for a ballot in Scotland.

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