Scottish independence: Business leaders question 'Yes' vote business case

Ship freight container transporters move amongst freight containers on Tilbury Dock on February 1, 2007 in Tilbury, England.

More than 130 business leaders have signed a letter saying the business case for Scottish independence "has not been made".

The signatories come from a variety of businesses including banking, mining, engineering, food, whisky, and technology.

But lobby group Business for Scotland said economic "facts and figures" support Scottish independence.

The letter has been published in The Scotsman newspaper.

Scotland will go to the polls in the referendum on 18 September, with voters being asked the "Yes/No" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The letter is signed in a personal capacity by business leaders including Douglas Flint, the chairman of HSBC; Andrew Mackenzie, the chief executive of the mining giant, BHP Billiton; and Sir John Grant, executive vice-president of policy at the energy company, BG Group.

Others include Audrey Baxter, executive chairman of Baxters Food Group; Simon Thomson, the chief executive of Cairn Energy; and Ian Curle, the chief executive of Edrington, which owns the whisky brands The Macallan and The Famous Grouse.

Members of the public listen to Jim Murphy Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, speaking in Bathgate during his "100 Towns in 100 Days" tour on August 19, 2014 in Bathgate, Scotland Better together campaigners say jobs are at stake

The letter was organised by Keith Cochrane, the chief executive of the engineering firm, Weir Group, who has already warned of "substantial risks" if Scotland votes for independence. Its backers say that no political organisations have been involved in putting together the list.

The letter says that "much is at stake": "Our economic ties inside the United Kingdom are very close and support more than a million Scottish jobs.

"As job creators we have looked carefully at the arguments made by both sides of the debate.

"Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made."

Scottish independence: Business for and against

'Financial advantage'

One source told BBC Business Editor Kamal Ahmed that it grew out of a "frustration" about what is perceived as a lack of cohesiveness about the business and independence debate.

The signatories account for about 50,000 jobs in Scotland, from large firms such as Babcock ship building to small engineering firms in Glasgow's east end, our business editor says in his blog.

Supporters of an independent Scotland point to their own supporters from business and economics.

Yes campaign placards are placed in a field on August 26, 2014 in Fenwick, Scotland. Yes campaigners argue there are economic advantages to independence

Business for Scotland said in a statement: "Business for Scotland has 2,500 members who run businesses in Scotland, employ people across the country in a range of industries, and all believe that Scottish independence is in the best interests of Scotland and Scottish business.

"It's a position reached after looking at the facts and figures and realising that, from a simple balance sheet point of view as well as other considerations, our best interests lie in becoming an independent country."

Former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir George Mathewson, has said that Scotland's vital financial services sector - for example - would flourish if Scotland votes "Yes".

'Global business'

"There is nothing to suggest that being part of a smaller country hinders a financial services industry. Switzerland, for example, has - in Geneva and Zurich - not one, but two of the world's Top 10 financial centres. Singapore, with five million people, is ranked 4th," he has said.

"Investment is an increasingly global business, where success depends much more on people than on borders."

Economist and former head of Scottish Enterprise Sir Donald MacKay has argued that an independent Scotland would be in better fiscal shape than the UK is at present.

"An independent Scotland should use that financial advantage to invest in re-engineering our economy towards industrial, manufacturing and tradeable services development," he has said.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, owner of British Airways, also says that independence could be good for Scotland.

More on This Story

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    09:18: EU investment package

    For those who wish to continue following proceedings at the European Parliament, our colleagues in the politics hub are running a live blog and video feed.

     
  2.  
    09:18: Britvic profits
    Britvic drinks

    Drinks company Britvic has reported a 23% rise in pre-tax profit of £133m for the year to the end of September. Sales grew 2.4% in the period, to £1.3bn. The company's highly successful Fruit Shoot multi-pack product - familiar to parents of two-year-olds across the UK- is due to launch in the US in the second half of 2015.

     
  3.  
    09:08: Patisserie Valerie
    Patisserie Valerie

    Patisserie Holdings, the parent company of cafe chain Patisserie Valerie, reports a 26.8% rise in annual pre-tax profits, to £10.4m. The company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange this year with the ticker symbol CAKE, opened 19 new stores in the past 12 months, and saw a 100% increase in online sales (yes, they offer a range of gateaux via the web).

     
  4.  
    Via Twitter Graeme Wearden, business reporter at the Guardian

    tweets: "Last month, @HarrietGreen1 was 'adamant that she is nowhere near finished at Thomas Cook'"

     
  5.  
    Via Twitter Marco Zatterin, La Stampa
    Juncker

    tweets: "The Juncker Plan - 300"

     
  6.  
    08:52: Market update

    European markets are higher this morning, cheered by Tuesday's US GDP figure, which showed the world's largest economy growing by an annualised rate of 3.9% in the third quarter. Thomas Cook shares are lower by 20% this morning, to 109.4p, following the departure of chief executive Harriet Green.

    • The FTSE 1400 index is 0.33% higher at 6755
    • Germany's Dax is 0.68% higher at 9927
    • France's Cac-40 is 0.22% higher at 4391
     
  7.  
    08:42: EU investment package

    Incidentally, the fund is now confirmed to be €315bn, not €300bn as previously reported.

     
  8.  
    08:38: EU investment package

    The European Investment Bank will put $5bn into Mr Juncker's investment package, says EIB president Werner Hoyer.

     
  9.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Thomas Cook still lists Harriet Green as boss. All feels really rushed"

     
  10.  
    Via Twitter Tom Nuttall, Charlemagne columnist, the Economist

    tweets: "@JunckerEU: We don't want national wishlists, we don't want this fund to be politicised. This is not an ATM, the fund is not a bank."

     
  11.  
    08:25: EU investment package

    "I have a vision of children in Thessaloniki walking into a brand new classroom" says Mr Juncker. He also mentions improved hospitals, more green energy and better broadband infrastructure as part of his vision for a better Europe.

     
  12.  
    08:17: EU investment package

    Mr Juncker says this is a "time for political consensus" in Europe. He says the €300bn package comes on top of existing investment by EU member states, and that individual countries must enforce structural reforms.

     
  13.  
    08:15: EU investment package

    "Not only are we faced with an investment gap, we are faced with an investment trap," says Mr Juncker, because investors lack confidence. He adds that Europe's public resources are stretched, which is putting a strain on investment, a large amount of which comes through public expenditure.

     
  14.  
    08:12: EU investment package
    Juncker

    "Christmas has come early," says Mr Juncker, as he begins his speech. "Today Europe is turning a page," with an "ambitious investment plan", he says. "Europe is back in business".

     
  15.  
    08:10: Thomas Cook

    Thomas Cook shares have taken a tumble this morning following the surprise announcement that chief executive Harriet Green is leaving the business with immediate effect. Shares are down 18.5% to 112.5p.

     
  16.  
    08:04: EU investment package

    European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is about to start his speech outlining the €300bn plan to stimulate investment in the eurozone economy. For the fortitudinous among you, a live feed is available on the Commission's website.

     
  17.  
    Bank culture Via Email David Stanley from Richmond

    writes: "Where does all the money [from fines] go? Presumably some goes in compensation to the victims, but the rest? To pay off the deficit?"

     
  18.  
    Via Twitter Lauren Davidson, business reporter at The Telegraph

    tweets: "From Times Mag profile last month: CEO Harriet Green fixed Thomas Cook, earned less than her male predecessor."

     
  19.  
    07:40: Thomas Cook
    Green

    A little more on Harriet Green's departure from Thomas Cook. "I always said that I would move on to another company with fresh challenges once my work was complete," she says. "That time is now." The statement adds that when Ms Green joined, the company's share price was 14p. Today, it is 137.9p.

     
  20.  
    Via Twitter Simon Jack Business correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: "Harriet Green steps down as CEO of Thomas Cook after only 2 years. She once told me she never stays anywhere for long but this is very brief."

     
  21.  
    07:30: Thomas Cook
    Thomas Cook

    Overall, Thomas Cook, which has been struggling to compete with the rise of internet travel agents, made a statutory pre-tax loss of £114m for the year to the end of September. It's an improvement on the year before, when it made a £163m loss.

     
  22.  
    07:24: Compass profits
    Students receive their lunch at Salusbury Primary School in northwest London

    Global catering and support services firm Compass group - if you have never eaten their food, there is a very strong chance your children will have eaten it at school - has reported a 5.4% rise in pre-tax profits to £1.16bn for the year to the end of September. "Food is and will remain our core competence and is backed with some strong support service businesses," the company says.

     
  23.  
    07:18: SAS enlists Flybe
    SAS

    British low-cost airline Flybe has announced it has signed an agreement with Scandinavian carrier SAS, to operate some of its short haul services. It's a white-label deal, meaning SAS insignia will be displayed on the planes, and the flights will seem to the outsider like a regular SAS service.

     
  24.  
    07:08: Thomas Cook

    Holiday travel company Thomas Cook has announced that its boss, Harriet Green, is to step down. She will be replaced by Peter Fankhauser, currently the chief operating officer. Ms Green only joined the firm two years ago.

     
  25.  
    07:04: Royal Mail goes to Parliament

    That's all happening at 9:30, by the way.

     
  26.  
    Royal Mail goes to Parliament 07:02: Via Blog Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Royal Mail chief executive, Moya Greene, will for the first time appear in public to make the case about why the universal, UK-wide postal service is in imminent danger. And if the written evidence Royal Mail has sent to the committee is anything to go by, her words will certainly be punchy. The written evidence calls for urgent intervention by regulator Ofcom and warns if not: "A tipping point could be reached. The universal service could become unviable before effective changes can be implemented."

     
  27.  
    06:52: Bank culture Radio 5 live
    UBS

    One more from Lord McFall on Wake Up to Money. He says senior managers at banks "have often pleaded ignorance or stupidity rather than culpability" and that has to change. He cites an example of four top executives at Swiss bank UBS who came before the Committee on Banking Standards. Asked if they knew the name of their "star performer" who had just lost the bank $2bn, they replied that they didn't, he says. "The first they had heard of it was on the Bloomberg wires," Lord McFall adds.

     
  28.  
    06:46: BG boss' pay BBC Radio 4

    Mr Walker adds that BG Group's pay offer illustrates "poor corporate governance", and "puts fund managers in a position where they are forced to approve" the £25m remuneration package for new boss Helge Lund.

     
  29.  
    06:44: Bank culture Radio 5 live
    Air force

    The £27bn that banks have paid in fines for the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) outstrips this year's defence budget, says Lord McFall. Since the start of the financial crisis, banks have paid out more than £38bn in fines, for a litany of sins. What makes matters worse is that he and other MPs were warning the banks over the dangers of PPI for 20 years, before the mis-selling scandal broke, he adds.

     
  30.  
    06:32: BG boss' pay BBC Radio 4
    Mr Lund

    "A red rag to anti-capitalists," is what Simon Walker, from the Institute of Directors (IoD), calls the proposed £25m pay packet for the incoming head of gas explorer BG Group, Helge Lund. He tells Today "you could not calculate a measure that is more likely to inflame" politicians, and the general public, who will balk at the sum, which is "more than 10 times [Mr Lund's] pay in Norway", where Mr Lund ran the state's oil firm.

     
  31.  
    06:24: Bank culture Radio 5 live
    McFall

    Lord McFall tells Wake Up to Money initiatives to change the culture in banks are "fledging and fragile". He adds: "Rhetoric at the top has been implemented, but not carried down the line [into bank departments]". The aggressive sales culture of the banks will be eliminated eventually. But the banks can't do it alone, he adds. He is also calling on the banks to provide annual progress reports to Parliament's Banking Standards Committee.

     
  32.  
    06:14: Welfare reforms

    The UK's National Audit Office has warned that the cost of introducing major welfare reforms could run into billions of pounds if the IT system needed to deliver the changes isn't completed on time. The Universal Credit programme has been beset by IT problems, and the chairman of the public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, has accused the government of throwing good money after bad. Ministers insist they are getting value for money.

     
  33.  
    06:10: Bank culture Radio 5 live

    UK think tank New City Agenda says it will take "a generation" to fix the culture of the banking industry, in a report published today. The organisation's chairman, Lord McFall, who is also former chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, tells Wake Up to Money the report is the first to have gone inside the banks - it visited 11 of them - so provides a real insight into what is going on, and it's not pretty.

     
  34.  
    06:05: Clegg on immigration
    Clegg

    The UK's deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has said he supports further restrictions on benefit payments to migrants from elsewhere in the European Union. Writing in the Financial Times, the Liberal Democrat leader also warns David Cameron against trying to limit the number of EU migrants coming to the UK.

     
  35.  
    06:00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Plus Moya Greene, chief executive of the Royal Mail, will be giving evidence to the Business Committee - as will a number of her rivals - on competition in the postal sector and the government-mandated obligation to deliver to all UK addresses. As always, get in touch on email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on Twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  36.  
    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Morning. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will set out details this morning of a €300bn plan intended to revive Europe's flagging economy. Most of the money is expected to be provided by the private sector. More on that in the next few hours.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.