By Martin Kelly
Former RBS Chief Executive and Chairman Sir George Mathewson has described claims from the No campaign on currency and banking as “nonsense” and said independence is an “opportunity” for Scotland’s financial sector and not a threat.
Writing in the Financial Times, Sir George makes clear the benefits of a currency union after a Yes vote for both Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The former banking chief condemned scaremongering on Scotland’s financial sector – saying that the No camp’s claims on these issues should “be taken with a bucket of salt”.
Mathewson said that a Yes vote offers Scotland the opportunity to “support and expand the financial services sector using the powers of independence to attract new business and new entrants to the market” – and that Scotland’s financial services sector is currently “neglected by the Westminster government and its London-centric policy”.
The comments from the man who was in charge of RBS before it was almost bankrupt by new management, were welcomed by the SNP.
Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said:
“Since the launch of the No campaign two years ago, Alistair Darling and his Tory allies have tried relentlessly to spread fear about Scotland’s financial sector – but this expert intervention from Sir George Mathewson disproves the tired old scaremongering once and for all.
“Sir George is absolutely right to say that the No camp’s claims need to be taken with a bucket of salt – people in Scotland just don’t believe their predictions of doom and gloom any more.”
Sir George ridiculed claims that an independent Scotland would have been left to bail out so-called Scottish Banks, claiming the dealings that brought RBS and HBOS to ruin were carried out in London.
“It is nonsense to argue that Scotland’s banking sector would make independence impossible to achieve. Banks such as RBS and Lloyds Banking Group have strong Scottish connections but they can scarcely be described as Scottish banks.
“In reality they are run from London, and that is where they are regulated. The customers, assets and ownership are global, even if the holding company happens to be registered in Edinburgh.”
On a currency union, Sir George wrote: “The No campaign, abetted by the British government, claims that an independent Scotland could not continue in a sterling currency union because Scotland would have independent financial institutions lying beyond the reach of regulators in London.
“But at the same time they argue that these financial institutions would relocate to London in the event of independence, leaving Scotland poorer. They cannot have it both ways.”
MSP Gibson added: “As Sir George makes clear, with a Yes vote we can use the economic powers of independence to further grow our financial sector and attract new business to Scotland – and to have an economic policy tailored to Scotland’s needs, rather than London and the south-east.
“With the No camp’s scaremongering claims unravelling in the face of the evidence, Alistair Darling will need to write a new script ahead of tomorrow’s TV debate – the same old Project Fear negativity simply won’t cut it.”
A spokesman for Better Together said: “As an adviser to Yes Scotland, Sir George Mathewson should tell us what the nationalists’ plan B for replacing the pound in a separate Scotland is.
“There would not be a currency union if we leave the UK. It wouldn’t be good for Scotland and it wouldn’t be good for the continuing UK. In tomorrow’s TV debate Alex Salmond must give the Scottish people some honest answers about the consequences of separation for our currency.
“The usual bluff and bluster simply won’t do. Would we rush to adopt the Euro? Or would we set an unproven separate currency? The idea that voters can go to the polls blind on this fundamental issue isn’t credible.”