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All of Scotland’s leading companies believe that a Yes vote in this week’s independence referendum would be bad for Scotland and for the UK, and would increase corporate financing costs.

In the straw poll conducted among the top 30 employers based in Scotland, 85 per cent of respondents also said they were considering moving their corporate domicile to England in the event of a Yes vote.

The result of the Financial Times poll bolsters the flurry of corporate announcements last week, many of them from financial services employers including Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Tesco Bank, TSB and Aegon, revealing that they were preparing to set up alternative domicile arrangements in England.

It also echoes the assertion by Sir Mike Rake, president of the CBI employers’ group, that 90 per cent of the Scottish business community is concerned about the damage and uncertainty that would result from independence.

Of the 30 Scottish companies polled by the FT, half refused to answer the questions, largely for fear of appearing partisan on such a sensitive issue. But those that did reply expressed overwhelmingly negative sentiment towards the prospect of Scottish independence.

However, most played down the likely impact on jobs. Sixty per cent who expressed a view said they would consider cutting or moving jobs south of the border. Those who were planning job changes said the numbers involved would be small.

Participation in the poll was on condition of anonymity.

Company executives were particularly concerned about the higher taxes they feared a Scottish nationalist government would be forced to impose in the event of a Yes vote.

“If you look at Alex Salmond’s promises, the numbers don’t add up,” said one. “He needs more money. He can’t afford to raise corporate taxes, because companies will run. He can’t do it to households. The only way he can do it is to go for wealth, mansion and property taxes.”

This executive said he would not be surprised if companies ended up changing their operations to skirt Scotland’s borders as a result.

Another said: “The UK economy is underpinned by a strong union between all of its nations. A Yes vote would create unnecessary uncertainties with no proven benefits.”

Between them, the companies polled in the FT survey employ more than half a million staff, tens of thousands of whom are based in Scotland.

The business community, galvanised both by politicians in Westminster and employer organisations such as the CBI, have become far more involved in the independence debate over the past week. Many of those who have spoken out were spurred by opinion polls showing an advance of the likely Yes vote.

Some commentators believe that the mobilisation of the business community, particularly statements by financial services companies warning of likely moves of domicile, has led to a pendulum swing back towards a No vote.

Scotland’s five largest companies, by total number of employees, are FirstGroup, RBS, Lloyds, Stagecoach and the oil services company Wood Group.

Additional reporting by Peggy Hollinger, Andy Sharman, Tanya Powley, Gill Plimmer and Michael Kavanagh

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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