Alliance Trust plans switch to England over poll

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ALLIANCE Trust, a Scottish-based investment manager, has begun preparations for a possible move to England ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.

Alliance said it was creating companies in England into which it could transfer activities, in a precautionary move because of uncertainty over the implications of a pro-independence vote on tax, financial regulation, currency and EU membership.

“We are extremely proud of our 126-year Scottish heritage but I think the reality is you have to be very aware of the risks that your customers are facing, and ensure you can provide certainty and continuity of services,” Chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox said in an interview.

The comments by Alliance Trust, based in Dundee, come after similar plans were unveiled by Standard Life.

Scottish people will vote in September in a referendum on whether they want to split from the rest of the UK. A political row has erupted over whether an autonomous Scotland will be able to keep the pound.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond wants to share the currency with the rest of the UK, but the major British parties have rejected this idea.

It is also unclear how easy it would be for Scotland to join the European Union, since European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said states breaking away from existing EU countries would struggle to gain membership.

Ms Garrett-Cox said Alliance Trusts’ clients, who are 80 per cent based in England, had become increasingly concerned about the impact independence would have on money invested with the firm. The firm has gross assets of more than £3.2bn, according to its website.

“What is very clear from conversations and communications we’ve had with our customers is that this is at the top of their list of risks, and that’s why we felt that we needed to be completely transparent about what’s happening here,” she said.

However Alliance Trust did not say if it envisaged moving all its operations or just its legal domicile in the event of a “yes” vote.

Among other Scottish-based financial firms, Royal Bank of Scotland Group has also warned that independence could affect its credit ratings. These comments are important, because Scotland is home to the second-largest financial services centre in the United Kingdom after London, accounting for about 150,000 jobs.