THE chief executive of Barclays has said that his bank “could make independence work”, in the first sign of confidence in an independent Scotland by a major financial institution.
Antony Jenkins made his comments amid furore over his bank’s decision to axe 12,000 staff and increase bonuses for investment bankers by 10 per cent.
His intervention comes a week after Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable suggested RBS might pull out of Edinburgh and relocate its headquarters to London if Scotland becomes independent. BP chief executive Bob Dudley also warned of “big uncertainties” with independence, while the outgoing chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, said that the price of food could go up.
But announcing a reduction in profits, Mr Jenkins, whose bank is one of the smaller players in Scotland, said that it could make independence work.
Mr Jenkins said he had no view on whether a Yes vote would be good or bad for the bank. He said of independence: “That’s a matter for the Scottish people. We think we can make it work either way as a bank.”
SNP Westminster Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said: “This is a common sense approach from Barclays. Of course they will have questions that they will want answered but they are right – this is a decision for the people of Scotland and I very much welcome the chief executive’s comments.”
But Labour dismissed the comments from Mr Jenkins because his bank is already headquartered in England and runs branches in foreign countries with services designed to fit in with wherever they are located.
Labour’s shadow business minister Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Alex Salmond says we should ignore the views of experts but I bet he chooses not to ignore this information. Of course, Barclays will make it work as they are domiciled out of Scotland, have a tiny market share and are not focused on the Scottish market; as opposed to RBS and HBOS who are integral [to] Scottish business and jobs.”
A Better Together spokesman said: “Mr Jenkins has made it clear that he has no view on the subject. However, expert after expert has lined up to dismiss Alex Salmond’s currency plan.”
The announcement on bonuses and jobs by Mr Jenkins, including the loss of 7,000 jobs in Britain, prompted fury among politicians and trade unions.
The bank said it paid £2.4 billion in bonuses last year, an increase of 13 per cent despite a slump in its profits. The average bonus for the investment bank’s 26,200 staff was £60,100.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) has attacked the bank for its decision to increase bonuses but decrease dividends as its profits fell last year.
Roger Barker, director of corporate governance at the IoD, noted the executive bonus pool was nearly three times bigger than the total dividend payout to shareholders.