Asda chief executive and president Andy Clarke has stirred up the Scottish referendum debate by advising a ‘yes’ vote next week (18 September) would force up food costs. 

In a statement he claimed failing to provide an “honest” assessment of the knock on effects would be “ducking his responsibility”.

“It will be no surprise to voters that, if Scotland votes for independence, it would be imperative to establish a separate Scottish business. Currently, our systems are set up for one single UK market, we use the same currency and we operate under the same rates of VAT. By operating in a market serving 63 million customers we achieve major efficiencies and economies of scale.

“If we were no longer to operate in one state with one market and - broadly - one set of rules, our business model would inevitably become more complex. We would have to reflect our cost to operate here.”

Clarke was careful to hammer home Asda’s impartiality to which way the referendum goes next week, stating that this was “simply an honest recognition of the costs that change could bring” and said it is a decision for the people of Scotland.

The statement continued: “Already it costs more money to get groceries to people in Scotland, our taxes are higher and our margins are lower.

“I am not saying that prices have to rise in an independent Scotland. I am saying that politicians of all sides need to work with business if they want to reduce the cost of doing business and in turn, the cost of living.”

The Scottish National Party has repeatedly denied that independence would mean rising food costs. However, a number of companies including Tesco Bank, Lloyds and RBS have indicated they would move their headquarters south of the border over fears around the economic consequences of independence.