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12.09.14

Cabinet Secretary rejects Salmond's attack on Treasury RBS 'leak'

The UK’s most senior civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, has rejected claims by Alex Salmond that the Treasury leaked market-sensitive information about the future of Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS’s) plans to relocate its headquarters to London in the event of a Scottish vote for independence. 

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond wrote to the Cabinet Secretary after the BBC reported the move – citing a Treasury source – accusing officials of leaking information in a “deliberate attempt to cause uncertainty in the financial markets”. 

But in a letter to the first minister, Sir Jeremy said that the Treasury had simply been confirming its understanding of RBS's plans after details appeared elsewhere in the media. 

He said: “It was clear to the Treasury that this was likely to generate significant interest in – and uncertainty about – an issue with important implications for financial stability. In response, therefore, the Treasury press office confirmed its understanding of RBS's contingency planning. 

“This was not a UK government announcement – it was simply a confirmation of the Treasury's understanding of RBS's contingency planning.” 

Salmond, however, stated that he has welcomed confirmation from RBS chief executive Ross McEwan – in a letter sent to staff (see below) – that the bank has no intention of moving operations or jobs from Scotland following a Yes vote in next week’s referendum. 

Salmon added that he was “writing to the prime minister asking for an investigation of the leak of partial information ahead of RBS’ own announcement. Likewise, the Treasury’s actions appear to be a serious breach of referendum rules on government activity before the vote, and that is similarly worthy of investigation”. 

He added that the Treasury briefing was all part of a panicked Westminster effort to shore up a collapsing ‘no’ vote. 

Earlier this week the heads of all three major political parties in England – the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats – visited Scotland outlining plans for greater devolution if there was a ‘no’ vote in the referendum. UKIP leader Nigel Farage is there today. Several polls this week have also suggested that the vote is still in the balance. 

Below is the full text of the letter from RBS chief executive Ross McEwan to staff, provided by the SNP: 

Dear colleagues 

We have today made a statement to the market (see below), providing information on our contingency planning in the event of a Yes vote in next week's referendum on Scottish independence. As you will have seen over the last twenty four hours, other Scottish headquartered financial institutions have made public statements about their intentions. This served to fuel media speculation about our own plans, and in those circumstances, it became necessary for us to update the market on aspects of our contingency planning. 

It is my view as Chief Executive that any decision to move our registered headquarters should have no impact on everyday banking services used by our customers in Scotland and the rest of the British Isles. This is a technical procedure regarding the location of our registered head office. It is not an intention to move operations or jobs. 

Our current business in Scotland, including the personal and business bank, IT and operations, human resources and many other functions, are here because of the skills and knowledge of our people, and the sound business environment. So far, I see no reason why this would change should we implement our contingency plans. 

It is always my aim to ensure we inform our staff about such issues at the earliest opportunity. I know many of you will have already heard about this first in the media. My apologies for that, on this occasion this was unavoidable. 

Over the next week, and beyond, we will continue to update you whenever appropriate.

Ross McEwan

Chief Executive 

(Image of RBS HQ: Andrew Milligan / PA Wire) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Clarity   15/09/2014 at 15:30

The people have the right to know the consequences of division of the UK not only financially but also the implications for national security. Let's learn from the division of India into three.. an unmitigated disaster for the masses for power hungry politicos.

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