INDEPENDENCE could provide a boom for Scotland’s major banks and financial services with an array of new Government assets and a proposed oil fund to be looked after, Alex Salmond has said.
The First Minister told an audience in China that Scotland’s financial services remain a bedrock of the country’s economy despite the recent banking crash which saw The Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS needing multi-billion pound taxpayer bailouts to avoid collapse.
The UK Banking Reform Bill comes into force next year and will include measures to ring fence the riskier investment banking operations from retail-based functions.
And the First Minister told an audience of finance chiefs in Hong Kong during a keynote speech that Scotland would support “consistency with regulation across the United Kingdom.”
He added: “The Scottish Government supports the banking reform measures. They begin, in our estimation, to provide a framework in which banks can be efficient and competitive, without being too important to be allowed to fail.
“Consistent enforcement is clearly in the best interests of banks and customers in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Salmond has been in China on a trade mission for the past week, along with representatives from the oil and gas sector and the construction industry.
The financial crisis showed that many countries, including the United Kingdom, had allowed “deeply flawed models of financial regulation” to develop, Mr Salmond said.
“It also demonstrated above all that regulation can only be effective if it takes into account the international nature of financial institutions. That’s why we have seen, in the last few years, a huge emphasis on international collaboration.”
The First Minister told the audience that membership of the European Union would be “central” to Scotland’s success as a financial centre and as an economy.
He said: “We will adopt those EU initiatives, just as the UK does at present. The only implication for the rest of Europe, or for multinational companies, is that the directives will be implemented by 29 countries instead of 28.”
Mr Salmond said that Scotland had been a “hugely influential and important financial centre for many generations,” and that the country would become an “even more important financial centre” in the future, adding: “With independence we could benefit further.
“Key government functions based in Scotland – such as management of public sector assets and liabilities, and the operation of an oil fund that we propose – could in themselves present new opportunities for the financial services industry.
“Full access to the levers of economic growth is important. Taking a fully co-ordinated approach to the economy – developing the financial services sector further and attracting more headquarters functions into Scotland.”