Ex-William Hill Chief Backs Scottish Yes Vote
The former boss of Britain's biggest bookmaker will declare his support on Tuesday for an independent Scotland, arguing that pro-union campaigners have been guilty of "political posturing" whose arguments lack economic logic.
Sky News has learnt that Ralph Topping, who stepped down as chief executive of William Hill last week, is to become one of the most prominent business leaders so far to back a 'Yes' vote in next month's referendum.
Sources said that Mr Topping, who commuted to William Hill's head office from his home in Scotland until he stepped down on July 31, would disclose his support for secession in an opinion piece for a national newspaper.
He is understood to argue in the article that Scotland's largest financial institutions would be unlikely to move their headquarters south of the border if there was a vote in favour of independence.
Mr Topping is also expected to make a case for the "business sense" of a currency union and criticise the "political posturing" of George Osborne, the Chancellor, who has insisted that Scotland would forfeit the right to have sterling as its currency.
"Statistics show that Scotland is fiscally stronger, and investment flows are stronger, even without North Sea oil. We are not talking about South Sudan here and that's what he wants to argue," a friend of Mr Topping told Sky News.
His support will come ahead of Tuesday's inaugural televised debate between Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, and Alastair Darling, the former Chancellor, who is spearheading the Better Together campaign.
The encounter is being depicted as a crucial staging-post in the pre-referendum battle, with the latest opinion polls showing support for the 'Yes' campaign at around 40% and opponents at approximately 46%.
Mr Topping, who began his career at a Glasgow bookie in 1970, had been with William Hill for 29 years, including six as chief executive.
His declaration of support for Scottish independence will be made in a personal capacity, with his former employer maintaining a steadfastly neutral position on the vote, which will take place on September 18.
Mr Topping, who is also a director of the Scottish Football Association, is understood not to be a member of any political party.
William Hill operates hundreds of outlets in Scotland, accounting for a significant proportion of its UK-wide estate of roughly 2400 betting shops.
The company is understood to have been keen for Mr Topping to delay making his views public until after his retirement.
Few leaders of major British companies with operations on both sides of the border have hinted at personal views about the independence vote.
However, some businesses - including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Standard Life - have used annual reports or results statements to flag potential risks, particularly in the absence of confirmation that a currency union would exist on day one in the life of an independent Scotland.
On Monday, Sir George Mathewson, the former RBS chief executive, wrote in the Financial Times that warnings that the size of Scotland's banking system would make independence impossible were "unionist scaremongering".
The emergence of Mr Topping's support for the 'Yes' campaign comes weeks after William Hill took a £400,000 bet from a customer on a 'No' vote at odds of 1/4.