LONDON Dec 9 Two of Britain's biggest grocers
warned they may have to put up prices in Scotland if the country
votes for independence in next year's referendum.
Wal-Mart's Asda, battling with J Sainsbury
to be Britain's second largest grocer, and Wm Morrison
Supermarkets, the No. 4 player, both cautioned on Monday
that a yes vote at the Sept. 18 poll could mean higher food
bills for Scottish consumers.
Most recent opinion polls suggest Scots favour keeping the
306-year-old union with England but the gap in support between
the 'Yes' and 'No' camps is narrowing.
Britain's grocers currently absorb the greater costs of
operating in Scotland, such as higher transport costs, into
their overall UK businesses but some believe it would be unfair
to continue to do so if Scotland were to become an independent
"The price customers pay for a pint of milk or loaf of bread
is the same regardless of where they live in the UK," Asda chief
executive Andy Clarke said of his business.
"However, 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," he said.
His comments were echoed by Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips,
who said: "If the regulatory environment was to increase the
burden of the cost structure on business, that would potentially
have to be passed through to consumer pricing, because why
should the English and Welsh consumer subsidise this increased
cost of doing business in Scotland?"
Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, declined to say if it
would raise prices, merely stating: "Our job is to create the
best offer for customers whatever the outcome of the
A spokesman for Sainsbury's declined to comment.
Last month, the Scottish government unveiled its vision for
independence, promising Scots they could forge their own
prosperity but keep the pound and the queen if they vote to end
the union with England.
That blueprint followed a report released by the UK Treasury
that said independence would cost Scottish taxpayers an extra
1,000 pounds ($1,600) a year by the end of this decade.
Also, last month UK energy secretary Ed Davey warned
Scottish consumers they faced higher energy bills if they opted
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said there was no
reason why retail prices in an independent Scotland would be any
higher than at the moment.
"The Scottish government is already delivering the most
competitive business rates regime in the UK, and our plans for
an independent Scotland include proposals for lower corporation
tax and for a fuel duty regulator to cut transport costs,
meaning Scotland would be more competitive and less costly than