ROSS McEwan, the “here today, gone tomorrow” chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland has voiced the opinion that the RBS group would move its head office to England if Scotland became independent.

McEwan told journalists: “Leave it to the Scottish people. It is your call. You have got to make the calls on these things. We have just got to prepare as well as [we can] for that. There is nothing new in that for what we have to do.

“I think you would if you talk to the Scottish Government they would want us to take the plaque and move it to England because the balance sheet size of this thing would just be too big for Scotland – £730-odd billion – you can’t support it.

“So that would be the change, same as it was four years ago.”

That was a reference to the fact that RBS said in advance of the 2014 independence referendum that it would move its head office, plaque and all, to London.

Asked what the change of headquarters base would mean he said: “Not much at all. As long as we can get the good talent in Edinburgh this would stay one of our major centres.

“As long as the economy stayed competitive here and we could get talented people and they wanted to work here, not much changes.”


THE fact they more often call themselves RBS Group plc is a bit of a giveaway. It was an attempt to get away from the legacy of the days of Fred Goodwin (below) and the executives who thought they could make RBS the biggest bank in the world.

Yet RBS is still technically head-quartered at Gogarburn, the expensive complex outside Edinburgh that was Goodwin’s obsession, and it remains the UK’s third largest bank in terms of assets. It has 70,000 employees worldwide, again the largest number for a Scottish-based private company.

The bank would also point to its 12,000 employees in Scotland, and its links such as the Scottish EDGE programme and the long-standing relationship with the Scottish Rugby Union and other Scottish institutions and projects.

The National: Fred Goodwin


IT was founded in Edinburgh in 1727 out of the Society of the Subscribed Equivalent Debt that protected the investments of those who received “compensation” as part of the Act of Union in 1707 – Burns’s Parcel o’ Rogues.

The Royal Bank was seen as the Whig bank as opposed to the Older Bank of Scotland which was linked to the Jacobites. Based in Edinburgh, the Royal Bank was the first in the world to have overdrafts. It opened its first branch in Glasgow in 1783 and set up a network of local branches in the Victorian era.

For its first 200 years, the Royal Bank did its business in Scotland, and indeed had only one branch in England that opened in 1874. The bank bought small English banks from the 1920s onwards.


THE merger with William and Glyn’s in 1985 created a new force on the high streets of Britain, but the real game changer was the acquisition of NatWest in 2000 at a cost of £21bn. The bank was on a spree under Fred Goodwin, and got involved in the disastrous takeover of Dutch giant ABN-Amro.

The Labour government bailed out RBS to the tune of £46bn after the 2008 financial crash and then a whole series of historical and current scandals emerged, such as mortgage mis-selling, Libor rate fixing, the restructuring group scandal and more.

Fred Goodwin lost his knighthood, RBS lost its good name.


IT’S all about corporation tax and risk. Can Scotland afford to lose the corporation tax RBS would pay in an independent Scotland? But what if RBS – still owned by HM Treasury – gets fully privatised. Could Scotland afford to bail out RBS if it goes under again? Points to ponder.