Scotland politics

Scottish independence: MSPs question business leaders

The Scottish Parliament's economy committee has questioned Scottish business leaders ahead of September's independence referendum.

MSPs questioned those on both sides of the debate on the implications for investment, currency and EU membership.

Pro-Union executives claimed uncertainty over Scotland's future made international investors nervous.

But pro-independence business leaders insisted investors would not leave Scotland if there was a "Yes" vote.

On 18 September, voters in Scotland will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Here is what some of the business leaders told MSPs, as part of the inquiry into Scotland's economic future and the implications of either a "Yes" or "No" vote.

Image copyright Maitland PR

Rupert Soames, Aggreko

"We have noted a marked increase in the nervousness and questions that we have been getting from investors in the last six months. Now that the polls are getting closer, I think they are getting much more worried.

"If the UK left the EU, personally I think it would be highly damaging to business but at least one can imagine that the UK is a big enough trading entity to be able to cut its own deals in the wider world. I would have grave reservations about Scotland being able to negotiate with China, India and so on.

"It is far from clear to me that it would be sensible for the rest of the UK to enter into a currency union with Scotland without Scotland being tied up tighter than a kipper in terms of all the fiscal and tax responsibilities because you have to say, well, why should they?

"Part of my assessment of the risk of this is that I think the rest of the UK will be absolutely serious in saying that they will not have currency union. They will not want to take that on and I think the people who say that is just bluff and bluster - I think the Treasury are absolutely serious about this."

Image copyright Robert Kilgour

Robert Kilgour, Dow Investments and Renaissance Care Scotland

"While I accept Scotland could survive as an independent country and I certainly would not leave the country if it did become independent, if there was a 'Yes' vote in September, I firmly believe that independence would not be in the best interests of either Scotland or the Scottish people and certainly not for my business prospects, from the point of view of attracting investment and therefore creating more jobs in Scotland.

"The biggest problem in all the SME businesses that I both own and am involved in [is] access to finance. SME bank lending is a big issue for me. It has been for the last few years and still is. And I think it would be even worse under a stand alone, 'option B' or 'plan B' Scottish pound.

"I'm in favour of Scotland remaining part of the UK and I'm also in favour of devolution as an evolving process.

"I believe there should be more fiscal powers devolved to Scotland."

Image copyright Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Norman Springford, Apex Hotels

"We are concerned about the uncertainty that the whole process is creating, we are concerned about the lack of clarity of messages coming out from both sides of the debate.

"We certainly say that if there is a 'Yes' vote in September, we equally will not leave Scotland, we will effectively make good with the bad legislation that is there, but it will have an effect on the future job prospects of our employees and that is their main concern.

"The currency debate, for example, is causing many of our employees quite a difficulty. What are we going to be paid in? How are we going to trade? Are we going to have less or more taxation?

"If it goes past the September issue into an independence situation, they are concerned that the rest of the UK and the rest of the world will see Scotland as a small entity. Their job prospects will be constrained, particularly if they are no longer dealing in pounds.

"We are all I think scratching our heads here saying: 'Why on earth do we need this? What are we expecting to gain from independence?'"

Image copyright Business for Scotland

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, pro-independence Business for Scotland group

"We are a wealthy nation, we're just not a wealthy society, because the wealth we create does not necessarily stay here and is not necessarily invested in Scotland. For quite a few years now, Scotland's economic growth has actually tailed behind the rest of the UK.

"Since devolution, the gifting of some powers and some more authority to Scotland, we've actually seen a change in Scotland's fortunes. And I believe that, if a little power makes a small difference then a lot of power could potentially make a big difference.

"I remember being told businesses were going to leave Scotland [after devolution], all the banks were going to relocate.

"People are saying the same things about the same companies. I've heard it all before.

"If businesses didn't leave after devolution, I don't think they are going to leave after independence."

Image copyright Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Image caption Jim MacColl: "This is to give the Scottish Parliament more powers"

Jim MacColl, Clyde Blowers Capital

"This is an issue to give the Scottish Parliament more powers to decide its own destiny and to run the country in a way that suits Scotland more.

"The issues in Scotland are quite different from the issues that face London and the south east and I think the parliament needs those powers to address those issues.

"The only way to do that, to get those additional powers is to vote 'Yes' because there's nothing being put forward by the 'no' campaign. It's the status quo and I don't think that hacks it.

"Doing the same as we've done for the last 15 years for the next 15 and thinking you're going to get something different, I think is delusional, and why any politician in the Scottish Parliament of any political persuasion would not want to have more control over what happens in their own nation - it beats me."

Image copyright Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Image caption Marie Macklin wants "full fiscal powers" for Scotland

Marie Macklin, Klin Group

"We've 169,000 construction workers unemployed. I feel if we had full fiscal powers we would be able to return a better deal for the construction industry.

"With full fiscal policies we can look at such things as VAT, airport transfer duty, aggregate tax which should be devolved but isn't devolved currently.

"It's very important to Scotland and as a business that we remain in the EU and I know, speaking to other business people, the concern they currently have is the risk from the UK government, that 'in/out' potential referendum.

"The Scottish people want to remain in the EU, they're very positive about the EU. It's not in the EU's self-interest to say no to Scotland because we're a very wealthy country."

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