David Nish, chief executive of Standard Life, said the FTSE 100 pensions and savings group was preparing to shift its businesses south of the border should the Scots vote for independence.
He said work had already begun to “establish additional registered companies to operate outside Scotland into which we could transfer part of our operations if it was necessary”, reports The Telegraph.
Mr Nish said the uncertainty over currency, membership of the European Union, regulation, tax and the monetary system, were “material issues”. The group employs 5,000 staff in Scotland. It has 4m customers in the UK – 90pc of whom are outside Scotland.
RBS yesterday also highlighted the Scottish referendum, and a potential “Yes” vote, as a serious risk in its annual report.
“A vote in favour of Scottish independence would be likely to significantly impact the Group’s credit ratings and could also impact the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which the Group is subject,” the bank said, as it also revealed annual results.
The warnings came as Standard & Poor’s published a note saying it would be concerned about Scotland’s “unusually large” financial services sector in the event of independence.
The rating agency said the Scottish economy faced “significant but not unsurpassable” challenges if it were to separate from the UK. However, it pointed out that Scotland could find it hard to support RBS, as well as Lloyds Banking Group, and Clydesdale, which together have combined assets of around 12.5 times Scottish GDP.
S&P said the “capacity to finance banking operations could become more challenging should Scotland be unable to retain its current monetary arrangement with the UK”.
The loss of the Bank of England and the pound would be particularly problematic, S&P said. “In our view, this would leave investors more reluctant to lend to Scotland’s banks in a new currency that may not benefit initially from deep capital markets.”
In a statement, Lloyds said the referendum was a “matter for the people of Scotland”, but refused to comment on the future of its headquarters in Edinburgh.
Unionist politicians rounded on Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, in the Scottish Parliament yesterday. Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, asked how many businesses after Standard Life would have to say they plan to leave Scotland before Salmond realises a “Yes” vote is a “disaster”.
Mr Salmond insisted the SNP’s proposal of a currency union with the UK would eventually materialise, giving stability to Scottish companies.
Shares in Standard Life closed down 0.88pc at 381.8p.