EU changes ‘could benefit Scotland’ says CBI chief

New CBI president Paul Drechsler. Picture: Contributed
New CBI president Paul Drechsler. Picture: Contributed
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SCOTLAND could benefit from more jobs and business if changes are made to the way the European Union (EU) operates, the new Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president will tell industry leaders.

With a referendum on the UK’s future in the EU to take place before the end of 2017, Paul Dreschler says being in a reformed EU is critical to trade and investment.

About 45 per cent of Scottish exports go to the European continent - in 2012 these totalled nearly £12 billion

Paul Drechsler

More than one in ten jobs in Scotland are estimated to be dependent, either directly or indirectly, on trade with other European nations.

Mr Dreschler, who will address the CBI Scotland annual dinner in Glasgow this evening, will stress the importance to Scotland of remaining in a reformed EU.

He will concede the EU is “far from perfect”, adding that businesses are “not blind to the downsides”.

But he will say: “About 45 per cent of Scottish exports go to the European continent - in 2012 these totalled nearly £12 billion.

“The EU’s single market lets business go beyond a market of five million Scots, or 64 million Brits, to reach more than 500 million potential customers.”

A review for the UK Government found it is “reasonable to estimate that more than 336,000 jobs in Scotland are directly or indirectly dependent on trade with EU countries,” he will add, pointing out this amounts to more than 12 per cent of the total number of employed people in Scotland.

The CBI president will say: “This is just one reason why - whilst there’s no uniform view - the majority of firms want the UK to stay in a reformed European Union.

“Most firms believe that the disadvantages of UK membership are significantly outweighed by the benefits.”

Mr Dreschler will stress, however, that the EU “needs to do more of what it’s good at and less of what it’s bad at”.

He will say: “We believe that creating jobs should be at the very heart of what Europe is all about.

“Expanding the single market in services and signing trade deals should be top of the EU’s ‘to do’ list - and could mean more sales for firms and more jobs for people here in Scotland.”

Hundreds of business leaders are expected to attend tonight’s event, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter due to address guests.

Mr Deschler will highlight the need to improve educational attainment and close the gap between rich and poor.

“Education is a human right,” he will say.

“Across the UK, we need to close the gap in achievement between the poorest children and their wealthier peers. We quite literally can’t afford for our children to be left behind in the global skills race.”

Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon announced plans to bring in national testing from pupils in primary schools in a bid to improve achievement.