Weir chief suggests relocating HQ south of border

Weir is one of Scotland's biggest manufacturing groups

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One of Scotland’s biggest manufacturing companies has not ruled out relocating its headquarters in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum next week.

Keith Cochrane, chief executive at Weir, the Glasgow-based maker of valves and pumps, said on Thursday that the company was “well placed to take appropriate steps, if necessary, to mitigate any negative impacts of independence”.

His comments follow announcements by a growing group of Scottish-based businesses, including RBS and Standard Life, who have warned that they would relocate their headquarters south of the border.

However, Mr Cochrane stopped short of saying the group would definitely relocate if Scotland voted for independence.

In a speech to business people in Glasgow on Thursday evening he said: “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.

“That means certainty over issues like currency, certainty over issues like taxation and certainty over issues like EU membership,” said Mr Cochrane.

Weir employs 600 of its 15,000 staff in Scotland, spread across three service centres and its head office. Mr Cochrane said the three service centres would remain in Scotland.

Mr Cochrane has been one of the most active business campaigners for a No vote. In August, he organised an open letter from more than 130 business leaders which showed the breadth of business opposition to Scottish independence.

In April, Weir Group published an 80-page report on the implications of leaving the UK that it had commissioned from Oxford Economics, an independent consultancy.

The report estimated that the introduction of a new currency could cost Scottish businesses £800m to implement, as well as costs of about £500m a year. At the time, Mr Cochrane said: “For businesses, the conclusions seem clear: the costs of independence are guaranteed but the benefits are uncertain.”

In his speech on Thursday, Mr Cochrane added that, on a personal level, he was “deeply worried” for his country.

“We are all proud Scots but we shouldn’t be seduced by soundbites alone. If we vote Yes next week, we will walk away from the most successful economic union the world has ever seen,” he said.

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