By a Newsnet reporter
Statements from leading retailers that shoppers would face higher prices in an independent Scotland were requested by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Today several chains, including Asda and John Lewis, issued statements claiming a Yes vote could mean a price hike for Scottish shoppers.
Andy Clarke, president and CEO of Asda, said: “If we were no longer to operate in one state with one market and – broadly – one set of rules, our business model would inevitably become more complex. We would have to reflect our cost to operate here.”
John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield, said Scottish shoppers would be likely to face higher prices post-independence.
Mayfield said: “[It costs] 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.”
However tonight the move appeared to backfire after it emerged the statements had been made at the urging of Prime Minister David Cameron.
BBC reporter Robert Peston claimed to have been told that the Conservative leader secretly met with supermarket hours before the statements were released.
In a tweet, Peston said: “I have learned that PM met supermarket bosses at No.10 this afternoon & urged them to go public on how prices would rise in indie Scotland.”
The revelation has been seized on by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who accused the Prime Minister of trying to pressurise businesses into making statements against independence.
Commenting, the Deputy First Minister said:
“This incredible revelation proves beyond doubt that the Prime Minister himself is coordinating a scare campaign to pressurise business into coming out against independence.
“The idea that that David Cameron thinks it is acceptable to put pressure on business to meet his party political ends is utterly unacceptable – and proves that the Project Fear agenda goes to the very heart of the No campaign.
“Earlier this week David Cameron claimed to love Scotland. Now, his weasel words have been exposed. He is actively trying to undermine the Scottish economy.
“Unfortunately for the No campaign and David Cameron the people of Scotland are wise to this kind of scaremongering and won’t be fooled.
“We will prosper after a Yes vote, with a government that always puts Scotland first, rather than a Westminster establishment which puts its own political and economic interests before the Scottish economy.”
In a later development the BBC reporter appeared to backpedal on his earlier tweet, claiming that Downing Street had admitted the secret meetings took place but said that pressure on supermarket bosses to go public on how prices could rise in an independent Scotland had happened during separate one-to-one chats.
The No campaign faced criticism earlier this year after UK Government sources confirmed that they were engaged in a ‘Dambusters Strategy’ to wear down confidence in the Scottish economy in the hope of encouraging a No vote. The term, which is a reference to the wartime bombing of German damns which killed thousands of civilians, was condemned at the time.
The issue of the price of shopping after independence recently caused embarrassment for the No campaign after leaflets claimed supermarket giant Tesco would increase prices in the event of a Yes vote. The leaflet contained an image of what appeared to be a Tesco supermarket receipt.
However the claim was rubbished by Tesco with an official stating the company had no such plans to increase prices in the event of a Yes vote.
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