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Campaigners for a No vote in Scotland’s independence referendum say the market jitters and tide of expressions of business concern that dominated the debate in recent days should help shore up support for staying in the UK. But that is not how Irene Chapman sees it.
Ms Chapman, a 56-year-old full-time carer in the Fife village of Kelty, is still undecided on the referendum but felt betrayed by the Royal Bank of Scotland’s announcement it would re-domicile in England if Scotland votes for independence.
“It makes me really angry – is it not supposed to be the Royal Bank of Scotland?” she says pointing at the lender’s Kelty branch and emphasising the last word of its name. “It makes me more likely to vote Yes.”
Ms Chapman’s outrage is far from universal – warnings from banks and businesses play into voters’ doubts about an independent Scotland’s economic prospects and could deter some of the undecided from voting to leave the UK next week.
But analysts say any boost to the No camp will be at least partly balanced by the feeling among some voters that they are being bullied by the business establishment and by the widespread view that many of the warnings are mere bluff.
Even in Edinburgh’s financial sector, a vital driver of the Scottish economy, many employees wave aside suggestions it would suffer after a Yes vote.
In the Edinburgh Park business area, William, a 43-year-old call-centre worker for Lloyds Banking Group, dismisses talk that re-domiciling would mean Lloyds also shifting jobs south.
“You know they are actually recruiting people here this week? People realise [the concerns highlighted by the No campaign] are all bluster,” he says. “If they weren’t committed to Scotland, why would they still be taking on folk here?”
Two young consultants at Lloyds’ mortgage service agree the re-domiciling announcement was unlikely to put them off backing independence next Thursday.
“The majority of people in there are Yes,” says one. “I could still be swayed – but not by that.”
Such confidence in the future of finance sector jobs after a Yes vote frustrates many supporters of the union.
Financial sector colleagues still backing Yes are like “turkeys voting for Christmas”, declares one middle-aged pensions consultant rushing to catch his train home.
In Kelty, a former mining village, Sandy Culross, 64, agrees. “If these idiots vote Yes, I wouldn’t want to think of what would happen. My son works for Lloyds Bank – what would happen to him if it they move south?”
John Curtice, professor of politics at University of Strathclyde, says low public trust in business – and especially in banks – limits any benefit to the No campaign from their interventions in the independence debate.
The public concerns of big business could even exacerbate the divide between lower-income groups who were tending to support independence and the wealthier demographic mainly favouring staying in the UK, Prof Curtice says.
“If you have assets you will worry – but if you don’t, you will blame the bloody banks,” he says.
In Perth, an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh, pro-union company secretary Lynsey Allan says corporate warnings have fuelled her fears about the consequences of a Yes vote. “I just feel that we can’t afford to be independent,” says Ms Allan. “There would be so many years of hardship.”
But independence supporter Doreen Philp, 62, says fellow Scots should put not much store by the worries of business leaders. “They are Tories and they are just trying to frighten their workers,” she says.
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