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RBS reiterates independence warning

Royal Bank of Scotland has repeated its warning of a "material adverse effect" on its business if Scots vote in favour of independence next month.

The Edinburgh-based bank, which is 80% owned by the taxpayer, highlighted the potential for uncertainty caused by a Yes vote, which it said could significantly impact the group's credit ratings as well as the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which the business is subject.

In a section outlining the risk factors facing the group, RBS said in its half-year results that independence could " significantly impact the group's costs and would have a material adverse effect on the group's business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects".

The comments are in line with a statement made by the bank in its annual report earlier this year. The company, which has maintained a neutral position ahead of the vote, has been holding talks with the Bank of England, UK Financial Investments and the Scottish and UK Governments over the referendum.

The bank's half-year results confirmed figures published last week showing a big jump in operating profits to £2.6 billion. It said it has benefited from the improving economy, reduced bad debts and the quicker run down of non-core assets.

Among other Scotland-based financial institutions, Standard Life has said it could move some of its operations if the country votes for independence.

The pensions and savings company - which has been based in Scotland for around 190 years - said earlier this year that it would ''take whatever action we consider necessary'' to give continuity to its customers.

Shares in RBS climbed by as much as 15% on Friday last week after the group released the figures seven days early because they were "significantly stronger" than market expectations.

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South and shadow business minister, said: "That the Royal Bank of Scotland have reiterated their concerns about separation underlines the threat it poses to Scottish jobs, savings and mortgages.

"Alex Salmond cannot continue to ignore these concerns. He is risking the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people all across Scotland to fulfil his own political ambitions.

"It is clear that, if we leave the UK, we lose the pound and would have to reapply to join the EU.

"The nationalists need to tell us what would replace the pound, and on what terms we would reapply to join the EU.

"This is a risk we don't need to take. We can have the best of both worlds for Scotland - a strong Scottish Parliament, with more powers guaranteed, backed up by the strength, security and stability of the UK.

"We should say no thanks to putting this at risk in September."

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: "This is another example of a financial services key player raising legitimate worries about the impact of independence.

"It's remarkable that the Scottish Government hasn't managed a proper response to any of these points so far.

"All of these institutions can't be wrong, and it's time the SNP offered some kind of credible reassurance about the future of major headquarters and jobs in the event of independence."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This is simply a restatement of the position set out in RBS annual report which they are legally obliged to make and puts the referendum alongside UK interest rates, the housing bubble and ongoing banking reforms as issues they are monitoring.

"As a recent survey by Deloitte's highlighted, businesses see a far greater risk in the impact of the UK General Election and a referendum on leaving the EU than from anything to do with Scotland's referendum.

"As Ross McEwan himself pointed out earlier this year, RBS already operates in 38 countries around the world, and if it needed to be 39 then he said 'that's what we'll do'.

"As Scotland's Future sets out, an independent Scotland will continue to use Sterling as part of formal arrangements that would ensure both currency and regulation remained the same across the UK in the best interests of customers and businesses on both sides of the border.

"Scotland has a strong and diverse economy and the point of independence is to win the powers we need to build on those strengths and create a more prosperous and secure economy - which is good for the financial sector and everyone else."


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