Alex Salmond says Standard Life would prosper in independent Scotland

First minister plays down revelation that company has contingency plans to leave Scotland in event of a yes vote

Alex Salmond has played down suggestions from Standard Life that it could leave an independent Scotland by insisting the company would prosper after independence.

Facing a barrage of attacks at Holyrood after the financial services giant detailed its concerns about independence, the first minister said Scotland would remain "a good place to do business and a more competitive place to do business" after a yes vote.

Salmond sought to play down Standard Life's concerns, which included the disclosure that it was setting up companies in England as a contingency plan in case in case Scotland failed to agree a currency union with the UK following a yes vote.

He said the excellence of its 5,000 Scottish staff was a prime asset, and that the company shared the Scottish government's view of a "shared currency and regulatory framework" as being in the best interests of Scotland and the UK.

"My submission would be that Standard Life would find Scotland a good place to do business, as it does in 10 countries around the world," he said at first minister's questions.

Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, said Standard Life's warnings proved that independence would be a disaster for Scotland and that Salmond was following a "tried and tested path: denial, deception and delusion".

She said the impact of one of Scotland's largest and wealthiest employers moving large number of staff and business to England would dwarf the closure of the Ravenscraig steel works, the Linwood car factory and British Leyland's plant at Bathgate.

Holyrood's presiding officer, Tricia Marwick, asked Lamont to withdraw her claim that Salmond was guilty of deception, but she continued to accuse him of ignoring the significance and seriousness of Standard Life's concerns.

She said they echoed warnings from RBS that independence was a "live political risk" for its business and was likely to affect its borrowing and debt servicing costs.

Provoking ill-tempered exchanges with the first minister, Lamont referred to Salmond's attacks on George Osborne's recent statement, backed by Labour and the Lib Dems, that a UK government would not agree to a currency union with Scotland.

"Now Standard Life is actively making plans to leave Scotland if the first minister gets his way, no amount of bluff, no amount of bluster and no amount of bullying from Alex Salmond can change that fact," she said.

Salmond retorted that Lamont was now in coalition with the Tories. "The bluff, bluster and bullying applies to George Osborne, who is the Tory chancellor she is in alliance with.

"[Is] Johann Lamont seriously saying that Scotland isn't a good place to do business, because that's what this hangs on. It's the case that not only will Scotland be a good place to do business, but it will be a more a competitive place to do business."

John Swinney, the Scottish finance secretary, said earlier that "Standard Life's comments show exactly why our proposals for a formal currency area are the right proposals, why they are in the best interests of business on both sides of the border and why that is what will be implemented by both governments.

"This also shows why the UK government has a duty to engage properly with the issues instead of issuing irresponsible threats."

"When Standard Life previously expressed concerns about the consequences of devolution, these concerns ultimately proved to be unfounded, and the company has successfully continued to grow its business here, underlined by the announcement just this month of a £75m acquisition in central Edinburgh described as a 'long-term investment'.

"Standard Life's strengths lie in its workforce here in Scotland. We are very happy to engage with the company to address the issues raised in their annual report, and we look forward to the company continuing to play its part in building that strong Scottish economy in the future." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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