Financial group warns on Scottish independence

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LONDON (AP) — British financial group Standard Life said Thursday it is drawing contingency plans to move some of its operations out of Scotland in the event it votes for independence — a decision certain to stoke debate about the fate of business after the Sept. 18 ballot.

The independence referendum has raised a number of issues for companies, including what sort of currency would be used.

Britain's leadership has warned Scotland that if it votes later this year to leave the U.K., then the new country walks away from the pound. Treasury chief George Osborne delivered the hard-line position during a speech in Edinburgh this month, gambling on the idea that the majority of Scots will dismiss the romantic appeal of independence and focus on more tangible economic issues.

Being part of a pound union had been the centerpiece of the Scottish National Party's strategy to guarantee a secure, stable transition. They've dismissed Osborne's remarks as political maneuvering, dubbing it the "Sermon on the Pound."

Standard Life is one of Scotland's biggest employers with 5,000 people and has been based there for 189 years. Though the firm is maintaining a strict policy of neutrality on the vote, it said it has a responsibility to its customers to take action to protect their interests.

The company says it has started work to establish additional registered companies to operate outside Scotland, "into which we could transfer parts of our operations if it was necessary to do so."

The "yes" campaign for independence quickly issued a statement supporting Standard Life's wish to see agreements on currency, regulation and taxation.

"The only threat to that comes from the refusal of the No campaign and the U.K. government to get involved in sensible discussions," Yes Scotland said in a statement.

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