“Yes” would put up Scottish prices

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Shoppers in Scotland are likely to face higher prices if the country votes in favour of independence, one of the UK’s leading retailers has warned.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said it had no intention of reducing its commercial presence north of the border, where it has nine shops, a contact centre and employs more than 3,000 people.

But he cautioned that firms were unlikely to continue sharing the burden of higher operating costs in Scotland across all UK customers in the event of the break up of the Union.

He said he would “regret” any move which damaged the retailers’ partnership model.

“We have got a thriving business in Scotland, with nine shops, a contact centre and over 3,000 partners working there,” Sir Charlie told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“The debate has clearly become very, very fractious. As a businessman it is not my place to tell Scottish voters how to vote in next week’s referendum.

“But I will say two things.

“From a business perspective there will be economic consequences to a Yes vote, not just in uncertainty but some of the turmoil we are hearing about.

“And it is also the case that it does cost more money to trade in parts of Scotland and therefore those hard costs, in the event of a Yes vote, are more likely to be passed on.”

He went on: “On the day after the referendum the shops are going to open on time, nothing will change.

“For various reasons - regulation and transport costs etc - it does currently cost more money to serve parts of Scotland.

“Most retailers don’t run different prices, they absorb that in the totality.

“If you go forward several years and you see a divergence of different things - particularly currency - that creates the likelihood, not the certainty, that costs would be higher.”