By Martin Kelly
Claims by the UK Government that it passed confidential business information about RBS to journalists in response to questions, have been challenged after a BBC reporter revealed he had received the information despite not having contacted the Treasury.
Hosting a referendum debate last night, BBC Scotland reporter James Cook revealed that he had been informed by the UK Treasury that the Royal Bank of Scotland was to move its registered office from Scotland to London in the event of a Yes vote in this week’s independence referendum.
Responding to claims from Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who said the information had only been released to journalists who had requested clarification, Mr Cook said: “Just for the record, I received that email and I didn’t request it”.
The revelation by the BBC reporter calls into question claims by the Treasury that it revealed the information to journalists only after they sought clarification on the issue.
The release of the confidential information late last Wednesday by the Treasury, was made despite the fact that the RBS board were still considering whether to inform shareholders of the contingency plan.
The move by the Treasury led to news reports claiming that thousands of banking jobs could be lost to Scotland if the nation opted for independence on September 18th. The Royal Bank of Scotland was forced to issue a hurried memo to staff, denying the reports and confirming no jobs or operations would be lost in the event of independence.
The latest revelation has led to a repeat of calls from the First Minister for an urgent inquiry into the episode. Alex Salmond has accused the United Kingdon Government of having released the market sensitive information in an attempt at creating an impression of financial job losses should Scottish voters vote Yes.
Commenting on confirmation that the Treasury sent unsolicited briefing to journalists at the BBC about market sensitive information regarding the banking sector, before any announcement from banks themselves, Mr Salmond has again demanded full disclosure on the issue.
The First Minister has already written to UK civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood calling for a full inquiry into the leak of market sensitive information regarding RBS.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Mr Salmond said:
“This evening’s revelations are further proof of the plotting at senior levels of the UK Government to spread scare stories in the run-up to the referendum.
“The leaking of market sensitive information is an extremely serious issue – and the confirmation from the BBC that they were sent unsolicited briefing demands full disclosure from the Treasury.
“The tangled web of the UK Government’s activity in orchestrating scare stories is being exposed bit by bit and day by day.
“But the people of Scotland will not be bullied or cowed by Westminster’s blatantly transparent efforts to spread fears – which is just one reason why momentum continues to build behind the Yes campaign as we look forward to Thursday’s vote.”
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