SCOTLAND’S role in Europe has been thrown under the spotlight following a warning by the Lord Mayor of the City of London that a vote to withdraw from the European Union in a referendum would threaten financial services jobs across the UK.
Alderman Fiona Woolf told Scotland on Sunday that EU membership had become a big issue for business: “I’m forever asked what business and the City think about EU membership and the uncertainty that surrounds [the outcome] of a potential EU referendum.
“Both the City and CBI have taken the pulse, and roughly 80 per cent of firms say they would be worse off if we did leave the EU.
“We worry that many of the businesses in the City are there because they see it as being a gateway to Europe. If a referendum forced us out of the EU they might not close their City offices but they might do more business through Paris and Frankfurt.”
Woolf said the damage to jobs would extend far beyond London’s Square Mile.
“We would lose jobs to other European centres. And it would have a knock-on effect in the rest of Britain. For every job in the City there are two [linked to it] outside London,” she said.
Ahead of her visit to Scotland this week, Alderman Woolf insisted she did not wish to take sides in the independence debate, but her comments will add another element into the fierce argument over Scotland’s relationship with the EU whether as a part of the UK or as an independent nation.
The Lord Mayor was born and brought up in Edinburgh’s Morningside district, and is a career commercial energy lawyer.
During her visit she will meet John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Secretary; George Adam, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen; and leaders of the Scottish financial and professional services sectors. She will also attend a dinner hosted by Ewan Brown, chairman of Scottish Financial Enterprise, and a round table with Scottish legal representatives.
Woolf will also be pressing her “power of diversity programme” north of the Border, saying that only 7 per cent of top executive roles in FTSE 250 companies are held by women, compared with 20 per cent of non-executive roles. She said it was realistic to get this figure “up to 30 per cent” over the next five years.