ONE of the highest-profile business backers of a Yes vote in the referendum says he no longer wants Scotland to move towards independence.
Asked if he still backs independence, Clyde Blowers tycoon Jim McColl said: “No, the decision’s been made.”
I don’t think this is a Scotland-England issue; this is a London and rest of the UK issue. This is all about centralisationJim McColl
He said the UK needed much greater transfer of powers to its nations and regions.
Mr McColl added: “I don’t think this is a Scotland-England issue; this is a London and rest of the UK issue. This is all about centralisation.”
The tycoon, who recently bought out the Ferguson Marine shipyard on the Clyde to save it from closure, said the Smith package did not include the powers that Scotland will need to create jobs. Instead was a great need for change in how the UK worked, he added. “I think having income tax doesn’t mean anything. All of the stuff that we’re being given, I don’t think is going to make any difference to our ability to attract business.”
Mr McColl was one of the leading business figure in support of the Yes campaign in last year’s referendum and was regularly cited by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail.
He also talked about his hopes for Scottish shipbuilding and said there was no good reason why the UK had allowed so much of its commercial shipbuilding sector to collapse while nations such as Germany, Romania and Turkey have remained competitive.
Mr McColl said: “They weren’t where we were in the early 1900s, why the hell have we just sat back and let them take it all?”
Backed by private equity, he said his portfolio of companies has an annual turnover of £1.75 billion, net profits of £120 million and 6,500 employees globally.
He bought Ferguson Marine, the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde, out of administration last year and the firm is currently working on a 43-metre-long car ferry.
“We reckon there’s at least 2,000 ships out there that will have to be retrofitted”, he said, adding that Clyde Blowers estimates the global market for shipbuilding of a scale Ferguson could handle at an annual $86bn.
“We’re not looking for anything like that, we just want a few ships to build a year” he said. “There’ll be a niche in there that we can get into.”
Clyde Blowers’ initial investment in Ferguson runs to about £8m.