Weir Echoes RBS by Refusing to Commit to an Independent Scotland

Weir Group Plc said it couldn’t guarantee keeping its Glasgow headquarters if Scotland becomes independent, following threats by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Standard Life Plc to move operations out of the country if it breaks with the U.K.

The engineering company wouldn’t commit to the country “without knowing the answer to simple questions like ‘What will the currency arrangements be?’ ‘What will the tax regime look like?’ ‘Will Scotland remain a member of the EU?’,” Chief Executive Officer Keith Cochrane said in a speech in Glasgow yesterday.

Weir is Scotland’s third-largest listed company by market value after RBS and Standard Life, although it gets 98 percent of its revenue from outside the country. Its comments are part of an intervention by business leaders opposed to independence ahead of the Scottish referendum on Sept. 18. Lloyds Banking Group Plc, TSB Banking Group Plc, Clydesdale Bank Plc and Tesco Bank, said separately that they would set up London-based entities if Scotland quit the U.K.

Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond responded by accusing his political opponents of colluding with executives to scaremonger over the risks of independence, saying that advisers of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron were rallying companies to make negative statements.

No Bluff

“This is not bluff. This is not bluster. This is reality, not rhetoric,” Cochrane said about the emergency provisions by the Scotland-based banks. “Companies do not make these announcements lightly. These are the very real risks businesses now have to address and they have the potential to have serious impacts on Scotland’s economy and the prosperity of her people.

‘‘If we vote Yes next week, we will walk away from the most successful economic union the world has ever seen,’’ he added. ‘‘That doesn’t sound like a good deal for Scots and it doesn’t sound like a good deal for Scotland.”

A poll released Sept. 10 showed 47 percent support for the Yes campaign and 53 percent opposed to independence, excluding undecided voters.

As it no longer has manufacturing facilities in Scotland, Weir’s operations would be largely unaffected by independence, according to Cochrane. The company makes engineering equipment for the oil, gas and mining industries.

“All business leaders have a fiduciary duty to do what is best for our shareholders, and Weir will only continue to be based here if the business environment which has helped Weir grow into a truly global company continues to support our ambitions,” he said. “That means certainty over issues like currency, certainty over issues like taxation and certainty over issues like EU membership.”

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