With just four months until Scots hit the polls to settle the contentious issue of independence, a pair of surveys from the Scottish and British Chambers of Commerce have shed more light on business attitudes towards the potential split.
South of the border the majority of businesses (85%) would like to see Scotland remain part of the UK, with just 11% stating Scottish independence would be preferable. Should the referendum result in Scotland remaining in the UK roughly half (49%) of businesses believe the Scottish Parliament should maintain its current powers, with a quarter hoping to see more powers granted – but 21% believing some powers should be taken away.
John Longworth, Director General of the BCC commented on the findings:
“Business opinion across the United Kingdom on the Scottish independence debate is far from unanimous. That’s only logical, as businesses have different interests, and different views on our complex history of economic and political union.
“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.”
Meanwhile the voters themselves are demanding more of the Yes and No campaigns – the Scottish Chamber of Commerce reports that 56% of their members rate the debate around independence “poor” or “dismal” – with not a single voter rating the information available as “excellent”.
The Better Together campaign and UK Government fare particularly poorly – 30% of respondents have found the information provided by Whitehall “useless”, while 38% found it “not very useful”. The Scottish Government has proved more effective at informing voters, with 36% rating their resources “useful” or “very useful”.
Should the Yes campaign prevail business regulation, Corporation Tax and National Insurance are the top issues faced by newly-independent Scottish businesses.
Liz Cameron, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s Chief Executive called on both sides to increase the quality of debate, to ensure businesses have all the facts before balloting begins:
“It is clear that businesses are distinctly unimpressed with the quality of the referendum debates so far, with 56% rating them as poor or worse. The various political analyses do not seem to be hitting the mark as far as business is concerned.
“There is a clear message that with just four months left before voters go to the polls, politicians and the campaigning groups need to considerably step up their game. We urge the campaigns to rethink their engagement strategy and come forward with direct answers. We challenge each political party to detail which powers it would bring to Scotland, when, and how it would use these to Scotland’s economic benefit.
“This is a pivotal time for Scotland’s economic and social future. We are beginning to experience an upward trend in our economy, but business deserves better and all politicians should approach this debate with mutual respect and not petty point scoring.”
Photo by Andrew Bowden