Grimstone in second warning
Standard Life repeats threat to leave if Scotland quits UK
Standard Life chairman Sir Gerry Grimstone today threw down a renewed challenge to Scottish nationalists by saying the company would again consider leaving Scotland if the country voted for independence.
The company was drawn into a highly-controversial conflict with nationalist supporters in the run up to last year’s referendum when it threatened to relocate some operations to London if the Yes campaign had won.
Today in a clear warning to those demanding a second referendum he told shareholders in Edinburgh that the company’s position has not changed and that it would do whatever was required to protect their interests.
“Looking forward, if it [the question of independence] arose again we would do exactly the same thing,” he said.
“We would look at the facts and if we had to say something to ensure continuity to customers and shareholders we would do it without hesitation.”
He welcomed what he called a “strong, reasonable voice” in Scotland, by which he was referring to the 56 SNP MPs elected last week.
“We are a proud Scottish company, proud of our heritage. It has served us extremely well to be based in Edinburgh,” he said.
“We are looking forward to having a strong reasonable voice in the UK. Scottish business will benefit from a strong reasonable voice.”
He also told shareholders that following the General Election and the recent “revolutionary changes in pensions and savings” that there would be a period of stability, though other issues such as the European referendum posed further uncertainty.
“The stability of the UK and European single markets is also a matter of greater importance to us,” he said. “We will watch what the politicians propose in all these areas with great interest over the coming weeks and we won’t hesitate to speak up and to act in your best interests if we feel it is right to do so.”
Summarising the year’s progress he said the company had “by chance” returned £4.6 billion in dividends to shareholders since its flotation in 2006 when the company was valued at the same sum. “Despite all that, your company is worth twice where it started,” he said. “I hope you agree that’s pretty good going.”