Scotland politics

Scottish independence: 'Most non-Scots firms back Union'

flags Image copyright AP
Image caption The prospect of Scottish independence has drawn a mixed reaction from the UK business community

Most businesses outside Scotland want the nation to remain in the UK, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.

But more than half of firms called for reforms to the way Britain's devolved areas are funded by the Treasury.

But more than 90% said the independence debate had not influenced their business decision making.

The organisation surveyed 2,381 members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland ahead of the 18 September referendum.

BCC boss John Longworth said there were questions to answer on business, whatever the outcome of the vote.

Better Together, the campaign to keep the Union, described the survey as a "further blow" to the independence campaign, but the SNP said it underlined the need for a "Yes" vote.

According to the survey, 85% of businesses wanted Scotland to remain part of the Union, while 11% of firms said Scotland should become independent.

However, in the event of a "No" vote, 63% said the current arrangements for funding Britain's devolved nations - calculated under the Barnett formula - had to be reformed.

The survey also said:

  • A quarter of businesses said Scotland's devolved parliament should get more powers in the event of a "No" vote and 21% said it should have less
  • 63% said no new opportunities would arise for their businesses if Scotland voted for independence
  • 26% said trading across borders was the highest risk of independence, while 47% said a post-"Yes" currency deal was the most important issue for their business
  • 35% said a formal, pound-sharing currency union would be in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK, under independence
  • 28% said Scotland should create its own currency in the event of a "Yes" vote, while 18% said it should join the Euro and 8% backed it to retain Sterling outside a currency union
  • 91% said the independence debate had no impact on business decisions to date, although 11% of firms reported the debate having a negative impact on sales, compared with 5% in August 2013.

The Scottish independence debate has drawn a mixed reaction from the UK business community, with some making contingency plans to move operations in the event of a "Yes" vote, while others have said there would be no change or an improvement.

Mr Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that many businesses he had spoken to believed the UK was a "perfect market".

Image copyright British Chambers of Commerce
Image caption The BCC said it had taken an impartial position on the independence debate.

But he said: "Certainly the vast majority of businesses in the rest of the UK are not impacted in terms of their decision making by this issue."

Mr Longworth said a survey of members of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce published last week suggested a quarter of businesses north of the border believed the independence debate was making an impact on their decision making.

He added: "In the rest of the UK it is only 11%, although that in fact has gone up from 6% when we did our previous survey.

"From conversations I am having around the country, that low level of influence is driven by a couple of things. One is that many businesses in the rest of the UK do not do business in Scotland or have any business with Scotland.

"And I think there is also general complacency in the rest of the UK, in that they think simply that independence will not happen, and therefore they are not addressing the issue at the moment."

"There is actually a much larger number of businesses in Scotland have reported that is has influenced their decision making - this was from a survey carried out by our sister organisation the Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Speaking on behalf of Better Together, shadow business minister and Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray, said: "Our UK single market means businesses can sell their goods throughout the whole of the UK without any barriers between them and their customers - why would we want to put that at risk?

"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."

But SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie said: "On top of unprecedented cuts we've already seen, senior figures at Westminster are committed to slashing another £4bn from Scotland's public services - and this survey finds that businesses outside Scotland would pile further pressure onto the UK government to do this.

"Businesses also stated that the referendum debate has had no impact on their business decisions - this blows away 'No' camp attempts to scaremonger to the contrary."

The latest findings came after a survey of 759 Scottish businesses by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said more than half rated the level of debate so far as "poor" or "dismal".

The BCC, which conducted its survey from 14-17 April, said it had taken an impartial position on the independence debate.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites