Scots tycoon warns indyref2 ‘foolhardy’ amid Brexit uncertainty

Sir Tom Hunter has warned that Brexit uncertainty would mean a second indyref would be 'foolhardy'. Picture: John Devlin
Sir Tom Hunter has warned that Brexit uncertainty would mean a second indyref would be 'foolhardy'. Picture: John Devlin
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One of Scotland’s leading businessmen has warned a second Scottish independence referendum would be “foolhardy” amid the uncertainty of Brexit.

Sir Tom Hunter, the sports and property tycoon whose Hunter Foundation offered impartial advice during the 2014 independence poll, said “there is enough uncertainty” around Brexit, without adding independence into the mix.

I really do think it would be the wrong thing to bring up another independence referendum at this point. I’m not saying never, just not now. There’s enough uncertainty for us all to deal with.

Tom Hunter

The entrepreneur’s comments come days after former SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “unharness” independence from membership of the European Union.

Sir Tom, who did not publicly back either Yes or No, said: “I really do think it would be the wrong thing to bring up another independence referendum at this point. I’m not saying never, just not now.

“There’s enough uncertainty for us all to deal with. I can’t quite understand why the Government wants to take us out of the one union which is our biggest trading union, but keep us in another one.”

He flatly dismissed suggestions that the overwhelming vote to Remain in the EU in Scotland has boosted the case for independence.

He added: “I actually think the reverse - with this uncertainty about Brexit.

“No-one really knows what it’s going to mean from a commercial point of view.

“There are going to be so many things to be worked out that to add Scottish independence on top would be foolhardy.”

A report by recruitment firm Glassdoor to mark six months since the vote found employee confidence levels are starting to wane.

Fewer than one-third of UK workers are confident that the UK Government will be able to negotiate a good trade deal, and one in four people in London, which like Scotland voted to Remain, said they would consider leaving the UK to work elsewhere in Europe.

Sir Tom, who made £290 million from the sale of Sports Division business to JJB Sports in 1998, outlined his concerns while discussing plans for his West Coast Capital Assets technology investments firm.

The Ayrshire businessman said Brexit had not made him less likely to invest in the UK, but he complained about the lack of information about what Brexit will mean in practice.

Ms Sturgeon unveiled her plan to secure Scotland’s place in Europe on Tuesday, presenting three options to keep Scotland in the single market.

She proclaimed her government’s commitment to EU membership as an independent nation, but insisted that neither independence nor EU membership is her immediate priority.

Her first goal is to convince the UK Government to keep the UK as a whole in the European single market, or “soft Brexit”, but she acknowledged this seems unlikely.

This leaves two options: a complicated differential arrangement which keeps Scotland both in the UK and the single market, or independence.

Ms Sturgeon’s lack of confidence in securing a “compromise” solution was displayed when she confirmed that a second independence referendum remains “highly likely”.

A second independence referendum appeared another step closer within hours of Ms Sturgeon’s announcement when Prime Minister Theresa May declared there has been no “acceptance of differential relationships” for Scotland.

She added: “I don’t think there is a need or a reason for the Scottish Government to hold another independence referendum. I think the Scottish people gave their view in the referendum of 2014.

Mr MacAskill said on Tuesday independence in the EU “may well now be less popular than independence”.

“Many of the most ardent Yes voters were also Leave supporters,” he warned. “Others who were Yes, such as me, and supported Remain, query just where the EU is heading. … It no longer looks such a safe haven.”

Diarmuid Russell, of Glassdoor, said: “It’s clear that six months on those regions which backed Brexit now have little confidence that the UK will get a good deal.

“As things stand, just under half of the UK workforce believe that Brexit will impact their specific jobs.”