| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES U.S. companies looking to move operations to Scotland would see a reduction in taxes if Scots approve a referendum, now scheduled for autumn 2014, to secure independence from Britain, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said on Sunday.
An independent Scotland would reduced the current 23 percent U.K. corporate tax to 20 percent, Salmond, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), said in an interview in Los Angeles, where he is set to start a four-day trade mission aimed at luring California companies.
The country, which Salmond said would gain a large share of the rich North Sea oil revenues after a split, already offers tax relief of as much as 100 percent to small businesses to encourage investment.
"We will gain more in investment and employment than we'd lose in tax receipts," said Salmond, a former economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland. "We're much more sympathetic to business than Westminster."
The SNP, the devolved government's ruling party, wants to hold the referendum on ending a 300-year union with England in the autumn of 2014. But Britain's Conservative Party-led coalition government has pushed for an earlier vote, warning that any prolonged uncertainty would deter investors and harm the economy.
The Scottish Development International agency, which organized the trip, has targeted more than 70 California companies it will encourage to build or expand operations in their country, including Apple (AAPL.O), Chevron (CVX.N) and Yahoo (CVX.N).
Salmond wrote letters to each company, and while in California will meet with executives of LifeScan Inc, a Milpitas, California-based company with a plant in Scotland that manufactures glucose test strips, according to SDI.
The Scottish leader's plans also call for him to meet with California politicians in the state capital in Sacramento, and to tour Stanford, which is collaborating with Scottish universities on research into photonics.
In the last year, online retailer Amazon (AMZN.O) and energy technology supplier FMC Technologies (FMC.N) have opened operations in the country, according to SDI.
Salmond said Scotland intends to be more helpful to new companies than Britain has been traditionally, and that it helped Amazon build a new plant in six months by streamlining the permitting process.
"They'd give testimonials to what it's like to work with us," he said.
The Scottish leader also said the country would provide other incentives, including research grants for companies involved with generating energy from ocean tides and currents.
On Monday, Salmond is scheduled to appear on CBS'S "The Late Late Show," and to take questions from viewers during the program's "Tweets and Emails" segment.
CBS said guests will also include Scottish stars Kelly MacDonald and Kevin McKidd, who provided the voices for "Brave", an animated film set in Scotland that Walt Disney's Pixar unit will release on June 22.
Salmond is scheduled to appear at the film's Hollywood premiere on Monday.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
(This story has been cvorrected to fix the nationality of actors in paragraph 14)