Campaign group ramps up fight against independence
Nosheena Mobarik and Robert Kilgour
Some of Scotland’s business, political and public service leaders are to ramp up opposition to independence in the run-up to next year’s election.
A group of more than 20 have forged a taskforce to promote the economic benefits of Scotland remaining part of the UK, drawing on the support provided by the Treasury during the pandemic as an example of the union’s strength.
They include former Labour government minister Brian Wilson and former MEP Baroness Nosheena Mobarik as well as business leaders Belinda Dickson and Ivor Tiefenbrun and the former heads of CBI Scotland Sir Iain McMillan and Jack Perry.
They will take the message to the SNP that a break up of the union would damage an economy already weakened by the pandemic.
The 24-strong group will say that constitutional change will “kick any hope for the recovery of Scotland’s economy far into the long grass.”
The pro-union Scottish Business UK (SVUK) group has formed an Advisory Council representing sectors such as manufacturing, financial services, energy, marketing, property, construction, ICT, publishing and company support.
Care homes entrepreneur and SBUK founder and chairman Robert Kilgour said: “We are bringing together a formidable pool of business talent to form SBUK’s new Advisory Council.
“Demand for places on it from across the political spectrum testifies to the depth of concern in the business community over the SNP’s non-stop push for another independence referendum.
“I look forward to working with the new team to shape our campaign clearly and forcefully in the year ahead, up to and beyond May’s Holyrood elections.”
Former UK Trade Minister and Energy Minister Brian Wilson commented: “While the Scottish Government works tirelessly to emphasise the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK, it is vital to remind ourselves of the inter-dependence that exists and its value, both social and economic, to Scotland.
“None of the arguments which prevailed in 2014 have gone away and it is important they are updated and communicated effectively. The field should not be left clear for those whose sole mission is to create division around a single political objective, regardless of consequences.”
Businesswoman and former MEP for Scotland Baroness Nosheena Mobarik added: “There has never been a better time for an organisation like SBUK to be making a strong, rational, business case for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.
“The unprecedented support that Scottish companies and their employees have received from the UK Treasury during the coronavirus crisis shows the sheer strength and value to the economy that our place in the UK delivers.
“Now is the time for business leaders to speak up – in favour of long term security and prosperity within the UK and against the SNP’s plans to layer political upheaval on top of economic crisis in a way that would kick any hope for the recovery of Scotland’s economy far into the long grass.”
Gwyneth Fleming, founder and owner of contract cleaning and services provider GS Associates, which employs 4,000 people around the UK and Republic of Ireland, said: “I feel more strongly than ever that Scotland should remain in the UK. What our businesses need more than anything else in the current economic climate is the injection of certainty, not more constitutional experimentation.
“As our economy grapples with challenges including Brexit, the coronavirus and steep recession, all business leaders should be focussed on helping our country get through this unprecedented time, keeping staff safely in employment and looking to create new jobs where possible.”
Lord Provost of the City of Aberdeen and President of the World Energy Cities Partnership, Cllr Barney Crockett said: “Aberdeen is a major centre for business in Scotland. It is intimately linked to the UK and through the UK to the wider world. It is critically important to the city’s future that it remains as part of an integrated UK economy.
Independence would be a huge risk to the economy in which they operate– Struan Stevenson, SBUK
“I hope that my voice, experience and energy can help to ensure that remains the case”.
SBUK chief executive Struan Stevenson urged other business leaders share to get involved with the campaign.
“Collectively, our new council has experience running companies generating tens of millions of pounds in turnover and employing thousands of people across the UK,” he said.
“They know what it takes to achieve business success and have a shared understanding that independence would be a huge risk to the economy in which they operate.
“I’d urge any other business leader wanting to know how to get involved to contact us and join the campaign.”
A full list of Advisory Council members can be seen at https://scottish-business.uk/about-us/.
‘Not so easy’ for Scotland to join EU says EC VP
Vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, has rejected claims it would be ‘easy’ for a separate Scotland to join the EU.
He told The Sunday Times: “I’m not so sure about that given the position of many member states on this.
“As far as I can see the developments in Europe, I would not be overly optimistic.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “It’s time for honesty from the SNP about the reality of leaving the UK.
“The people of Scotland deserve answers from the SNP about how it would cope with the seismic financial shock of leaving the UK; how much it would cut from the NHS, schools and other public services; and how much it would put taxes up by.
“The SNP must also acknowledge that a separate Scotland could not quickly or easily join the EU and provide answers to questions about the currency and a hard border with England.
“The simple truth is that Scotland is better off as part of the UK, ensuring we can successfully rebuild our economy following the coronavirus pandemic and invest more in health and education.”