Majority of non-Scottish businesses oppose independence

85 per cent of businesses outside Scotland believe it should remain within the UK, according to a new survey.

A week after the Scottish Chamber of Commerce published a survey on its member’s attitudes to independence, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has released similar survey data on the attitudes of businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The survey of 2,400 members of the BCC has found that 85 per cent of businesses outside Scotland believe it should remain within the UK, with just 11 per cent supporting the idea of Scotland becoming an independent country.

Among the other key findings of the survey were:

  • 63 per cent of those businesses questioned said that no new opportunities would arise for them if Scotland decided to go for independence.

  • 26 per cent felt that the highest risk of independence would be having to trade across the border of a new country with 47 per cent identifying currency arrangements as being the most important issue for their firm.

  • 35 per cent believed that a currency union would be in the best interest of the UK if Scotland became independent with 28 per cent arguing that Scotland should create its own currency in such a scenario.

  • 63 per cent said it was important that the current arrangements for allocating public expenditure between the UK nations, known as the Barnett Formula, should be reformed, should Scotland vote ‘no’ in September.

  • In the event of Scotland remaining within the UK after September’s referendum, 49 per cent felt that the current division of powers between Westminster and Holyrood should remain the same, with 25 per cent believing the Scottish Parliament should have more powers and 21 per cent saying it should have less.

Commenting on the findings, director General of the British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth said:

“Businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain less than captivated by the intense debate unfolding north of the border. Yet they do have views on the potential impacts of a change in Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK.

“In the event of a ‘yes’ vote, cross-border trading and currency arrangements loom large in businesses’ thinking. If Scotland votes ‘no’, constitutional questions remain around the devolution of power and the distribution of public funding between nations.

“Business communities across the UK have diverse views on the Scottish independence debate. Yet one thing is for certain. Regardless of how Scotland votes in September, things will never be quite the same again.”

Seizing on the results, Labour MP for Edinburgh South and shadow business minister Ian Murray argued that it confirmed a trend of businesses turning their backs on independence. Murray explained:

“This survey confirms what some of Scotland’s largest employers like Standard Life, RBS and Shell have made clear. Breaking up the UK would create huge risks and cost jobs in Scotland.

“The majority of businesses in the rest of the UK do not support a currency union. It would be bad for Scotland and bad for the rest of the UK. That’s why it is off the table.

“What people in Scotland need from the nationalists is some honesty about what would replace the pound if we leave the UK. Would we rush to adopt the euro or would we set up a separate Scottish currency? The idea that Scots can go to the polls blind on this fundamental issue isn’t credible.”

For the SNP, however, its Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie argued that the findings showed why Scotland needed independence and why a currency union remained the best option for all sides:

“Today’s survey absolutely underlines the need to vote Yes in September to ensure Scotland can protect its budget and rule out the risk of further Westminster cuts being pushed down on to Scotland once and for all.

“Businesses elsewhere in the UK know a refusal to share sterling would see businesses south of the Border faced with an extra £500 million in transaction costs. The inescapable truth is a currency union is in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

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