Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 11:40 UK

Bank chief plays down job fears

Bank of Scotland head quarters
It is understood the merged bank would be run from Edinburgh

The chief executive of Lloyds TSB in Scotland has denied the 12bn takeover of HBOS would lead to thousands of compulsory redundancies in Scotland.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Susan Rice said she was unable to say how many jobs would be affected by the proposed 1bn efficiency programme.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he understood the merged bank would be run from the Mound in Edinburgh.

But he said questions remained over the degree of autonomy Scotland would have.

HBOS, formed from a merger of Halifax and the Bank of Scotland seven years ago, agreed to a deal with Lloyds TSB after a run on HBOS shares.

The HBOS group has about 17,000 staff in Scotland, while Lloyds TSB has more than 7,000 employees.

Major questions

Lloyds TSB has dismissed claims that up to 40,000 posts could be lost in the UK but has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies.

Ms Rice said it would take months for the scale of any job losses to become clear.

She said: "We don't have the models and the structures for going forward we can't put a number on what will happen to jobs in Scotland.

"But I think what everyone has to keep in mind is that the vast majority of staff in any bank are customer-facing. If we bring two banks together, we bring together the customer bases and we still need all those staff to deal with our customers."

Susan Rice
Ms Rice said it would take months to determine the scale of the job losses

Lloyds TSB has given assurances that it would continue to use the HBOS headquarters in Edinburgh after the takeover and would carry on printing Bank of Scotland notes.

Also speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Salmond gave a cautious welcome to Ms Rice's comments but said two major questions remained.

He said: "One, is the extent of the rationalisation to take place as a result of the overlapping branch structures.

"And secondly, and equally importantly, is the degree of decision making, autonomy and group operation, that's genuine head office operations, which will continue in Scotland."

Mr Salmond said the Scottish Government would use the coming months to argue and lobby for the advantages of Scotland as a financial centre from a cost and efficiency point of view.

He said he arranged an emergency meeting with the Financial Sector Advisory Group for Tuesday 23 September to "mobilise" the heart of the Scottish economy.

'Too late'

Mr Salmond welcomed the Financial Services Authority's (FSA) move to impose temporary restrictions to short-selling, the stock trading technique blamed for an HBOS share price slump, but said the move had come too late for the Bank of Scotland.

He said: "Of course it should have happened sooner. Frankly it's a bit late for the Bank of Scotland but it's been done now and that's going to help, along with liquidity moves co-ordinated across the market in stabilising the situation."

Meanwhile, SNP backbencher Alex Neil has described reports that HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby will get 2m worth of shares in Lloyds on completion of the takeover as "shameful".

He said: "This is totally immoral and unacceptable at a time when thousands of people across the country are worrying about the safety of their jobs and their deposits."

An HBOS spokesman said the reports were "factually incorrect".


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