Iain Withers, 29 April 2021
Britain’s NatWest would move its headquarters out of Scotland in the event of a vote in favour of independence, its CEO Alison Rose said, only days before parliamentary elections there.
State-backed NatWest (NWG.L), which until last year was called Royal Bank of Scotland, has been based for 294 years in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. “In the event that there was independence for Scotland our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy. And so we would move our registered headquarters, in the event of independence, to London,” Rose told reporters.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley this week put the chance of Scottish independence from the UK at 15%, while rival Citi put it as high as 35%, ahead of crucial elections next week where the issue will be centre stage. “We are neutral on the issue of Scottish independence. It’s something for the Scottish people to decide,” Rose said on Thursday after NatWest reported its first quarter results.
NatWest had said ahead of Scotland’s 2014 referendum on independence that it would move its registered office to London, but Rose’s comments are her first substantive remarks on the issue since becoming CEO in 2019.
Any change in HQ address would not impact staff or customers at NatWest, which returned to profit in the first quarter after joining rivals in releasing some of the provisions it had set aside to cover expected pandemic-related bad loans.
But it warned a money laundering case could trigger a big bill after Rose’s efforts to clean up NatWest’s image hit a setback last month with criminal charges against it.