Scottish independence: SNP backer Sir Tom Farmer on the future

Sir Tom Farmer Sir Tom Farmer said he was not convinced of the case for full independence

The multi-millionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Farmer is one of the Scottish National Party's most high-profile business backers - yet he does not currently support its main aim.

Ahead of the referendum, expected in autumn 2014, the Kwik Fit founder explains why his preferred option is full financial power for Holyrood, rather than full independence.

"I support the Scottish National Party, but I do not, at this present moment, support complete independence.

What I'd like to see is Scotland as a country be totally responsible for its own financial affairs, totally responsible for looking after our people, whether that be creation of jobs, unemployment, care of the elderly or education.

I would like to see Scotland being part of the 'United Kingdoms', whereby we raise our own taxes, we're responsible for our own expenditure, looking after our own people, and we pay Westminster for the services that they give us, such as defence.

It may well be that, 20 years after receiving more powers, [independence] is what will happen.

But I think things should be done in stages. I don't go for full separatism at the present moment.

I have two children who are grown up now and they've got their own lives and their own families - they are independent of us, but they're not separate from us.

Sir Tom's journey

Born in 1940, Tom Farmer grew up as one of seven children in Edinburgh's Leith area.

A teenage apprenticeship in engineering eventually led him to start the Kwik Fit garage chain, which was sold to the motor giant Ford in 1999, netting him an estimated £75m.

Since then, Sir Tom has become known for his charitable giving though the Farmer Foundation, which won him the prestigious Carnegie medal for philanthropy.

He was named Scottish Businessman of the Year in 1989, and was knighted in 1997.

Shortly before the 2007 election, Sir Tom donated £100,000 to the SNP.

He was not a party member and a floating voter at the time, but he did argue a level playing field was needed in politics.

At the time, Sir Tom argued that devolution, which until 2007 was dominated by the Labour/Lib Dem coalition government, had failed to live up to expectations.

In 2008, a year after the SNP's historic victory, Sir Tom said it was the wrong time for major discussions about an independence referendum, arguing that change should be paced.

He also said fiscal autonomy would make the administration in Scotland more efficient.

They look after their own affairs, but they have the comfort of knowing they're part of a family.

Over the next period of time between now and when the referendum comes about, I will be listening to and taking a view on all the different arguments that are put forward, whether that be devo max or independence.

I've never seen or heard anything yet that's convinced me independence is the right way forward for Scotland.

It's not just about money, but, if it ended up that the country was going to be in dire poverty because of independence, I don't think anybody wants that.

We've go to be sure our standard of living is not going to decrease and, in fact, we'd be hoping it's going to improve.

I think there's many people in the country, not just in the business community, who are holding fire.

They're saying, 'we have to understand the pros and the cons of going for independence or not going for independence'.

I want to be sure that, whichever way we go forward, the country is going to be better off - simple as that.

Being better off is about the social implications and making sure people who, at the present moment are not getting their share, get an opportunity."

Sir Tom Farmer was speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Call Kaye programme.

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