BANK of Scotland yesterday played down reports that top Scots businessman Sir Alistair Grant was set to become its next governor.

A spokesman for the bank said he had no comment on the reports in two English Sunday newspapers but pointed out that there was no obligation on the present Governor Sir Bruce Pattullo to retire at age 60, which he will reach in January.

The fact that he will be 60 at the time of the group's next annual meeting has heightened speculation about when Sir Bruce will step down and about his successor.

Sir Alistair is seen as an obvious candidate given his stature as one of Scotland's most senior business figures.

He is presently chairman of Scottish & Newccastle and if he took the bank governership as well this would make him the un- disputed leader of Scottish business.

Sir Alistair was one of the architects of the Safeway supermarket chain and he stepped down as chairman last January.

He has no formal knowledge of banking though will know much about the bank's business as he has been a non-executive director since 1992.

Experience of banking is not necessarily a qualification for the governership. Sir Bruce's predecessor was Sir Thomas Risk, a lawyer by profession.

On the surface Sir Alistair appears almost as committed against tax-raising powers for a Scottish parliament as Sir Bruce though there are indications from his past which suggests he is not ideologically opposed.

In the last S&N annual report, Sir Alistair criticised the proposed tax-raising powers as likely to scare away inward investment, damage Scotland's competitiveness and make it harder for business to recruit managerial talent.

This followed Sir Bruce's swingeing attack on the subject. He argued last month that it was not essential that the parliament have tax-raising powers.

At S&N's annual meeting, shortly after Sir Bruce's broadside, Sir Alistair appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone, saying that Scottish business ''might'' be at a dis- advantage should the tax-raising powers be used. Last year he spoke out in favour devolution though he stressed he did not believe in separatism.