Blog: Dean BestAsda, Morrisons wade into Scottish independence debate

Dean Best | 9 December 2013

It is 283 days until Scotland decides whether to remain part of the UK and, alongside questions of nationhood and democracy , has emerged a more day-to-day concern - the prices in supermarkets.

Two of the UK's four largest grocers have indicated, should Scots vote for independence, they may look to up prices on shelves.

Andy Clarke, the CEO of Asda, said a vote to break away from the UK could lead to an independent Scotland being less attractive to the business.

"The cost of doing business in different parts of the UK does vary and the powers given to the Scottish parliament in the 2012 Scotland Act and any yes vote in 2014 could result in Scotland being a less attractive investment proposition for businesses and put further pressure on our costs," Clarke reportedly told The Financial Times.

Morrisons, which like Asda has a higher share of Scotland's grocery market than in the whole of the UK, echoed similar concerns. "If the regulatory environment was to increase the burden of the cost structure on business, that would potentially have to be passed on to consumer pricing. Why should the English and Welsh consumer subsidise this increased cost of doing business in Scotland?" Dalton Philips, the chief executive of Morrisons, told the FT.

The latest polls put those who would vote to stay in the UK nine points ahead of those who want independence.

The cost of living is likely to be high among voters' concerns as they approach the poll, which is scheduled for 18 September.

'Cost of living / bills' was the top issue among those asked by Scottish tabloid The Daily Record in February to list the five most important issues they were considering ahead of the vote.

UK retailers have acknowledged consumer trust of the way they do business is low, especially in the wake of the horsemeat contamination saga earlier this year.

However, the comments from Clarke and Philips could hold some weight, particularly among shoppers at Asda and Morrisons, which on average earn less.

Sectors: Retailers

Companies: Morrisons, Asda

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