Cameron in Scotland to talk against split

August 29, 2014 - 1:48:25 am
The Scottish and British flags fly outside the Scottish Office in central London yesterday.

GLASGOW: British Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to Scotland yesterday to make the business case for it remaining part of Britain as 200 business leaders signed an open letter backing independence.

Questions over whether Scotland’s economy could do well alone have been at the heart of the campaign, with a rival group of 130 captains of industry claiming on Wednesday that independence would be “bad for business”.

Scotland votes in three weeks’ time on whether to end more than 300 years of union with the rest of the United Kingdom. 

Most opinion polls currently suggest the proposal is set to be rejected.

The “Yes” and “No” camps have traded statistics and accusations on everything from whether Scotland could keep using the pound to what share of Britain’s national debt it should take on if it broke away.

Think tank Capital Economics yesterday warned that independence could lead to significant capital flight from Scotland’s finance industry.

“The Scottish banking sector is equivalent to around 1,250 percent of Scotland’s GDP, so the Scottish Government would not have the resources needed to stabilise the sector in a crisis,” said the London-based firm.

“Accordingly, following a ‘Yes’ vote, the wholesale relocation of financial activity, including banks, insurance firms and pension funds, seems likely.” Cameron kept a low profile on the campaign trail due to his centre-right Conservative Party’s unpopularity north of the border, where it only holds one out of 59 House of Commons seats.

But he will re-enter the fray by urging Scots not to turn their backs on “one of the oldest and most successful single markets in the world” in a keynote speech to CBI Scotland, a leading business lobby group, in Glasgow.

Cameron is set to say that Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the United Kingdom as with the rest of the world put together, according to pre-released extracts of his speech. He is also expected to highlight “the opportunities that come from being part of something bigger”.

As the prime minister was set to arrive in Glasgow, The Herald newspaper published a letter from 200 business people arguing that an independent Scotland would be better for business.

This is because policy would be set by people “who truly understand and care most” about Scotland, not politicians in London, according to the letter.

It added that independence would provide “more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed”.

The signatories range from big business leaders such as Brian Souter — chairman of major transport group Stagecoach and a prominent donor to the independence campaign — to the owners of smaller enterprises such as guest house owners.

A day earlier, over 130 captains of industry signed another open letter in The Scotsman newspaper saying “the business case for independence has not been made”.

Many of the signatories to Wednesday’s pro-union letter worked for big name international firms.