Top Scottish firm shifts cash to English banks ahead of referendum

A leading Scottish firm with offices north and south of the border has shifted its cash out of Scottish banks for fear that a vote in favour of independence could lead to a run on them.

With just over a week to go until the people of Scotland vote on whether to remain part of the UK or split off as a separate country, a partner at the firm – which The Lawyer has agreed not to name – said memories of what happened when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia had prompted the move.

When that country divided in 1993 Slovak depositors moved their savings into Czech banks, leading the governments on both sides to put a halt to money transfers.

“We’re moving our cash to English banks,” the partner said. “When Czechoslovakia split the flow of capital was very quick.

“We bank with all UK banks but we’re making sure all the big money is held in English-registered accounts rather than Scottish ones.”

While only one firm is known to have made this move, many Scottish-headquartered outfits are feeling nervous about the impending referendum, with business activity in Scotland slowing as a result of uncertainty over its outcome.

As explored in this week’s lead analysis, the Scottish top 20, which by and large had a good year in 2013/14 (8 September 2014), has seen a slow start to 2014/15 as clients hold off on investing until the result of the vote is known.

However, as MacRoberts chairman John Macmillan said, things may not become any more certain following the 18 September vote.

“The SNP think they can deliver a new structure in 500 days, but that is very optimistic,” he said.

“If it’s a Yes it’s difficult to see that the new country will be up and running properly by 2017/18 and that’s a long time for uncertainty to continue. Yes doesn’t tell you anything.

“A No is more likely, but it will have to lead to more devolution because all the other parties have said they’ll bring that in and it will be political suicide if they don’t. No one knows what that will look like and I don’t think that on the 19th of September it will become a lot more certain.”