SNP under fire over Highland Spring indyref2 contact

Nicola Sturgeon is facing claims that Scots businesses are being "silenced" after the head of Highland Spring climbed down over independence comments following contact from the Scottish Government. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon is facing claims that Scots businesses are being "silenced" after the head of Highland Spring climbed down over independence comments following contact from the Scottish Government. Picture: PA
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The Scottish Government is under pressure to explain why it contacted drinks giant Highland Spring over concerns raised by the firm’s boss about Indyref2, amid opposition concerns about “intimidation” of businesses.

Economy secretary Keith Brown said yesterday he asked officials to contact the firm in light of the comments, insisting it was part of his “day job” to liaise with Scottish firms about such issues.

But political opponents said the episode raises concerns about the Scottish Government’s moves to “intimidate” businesses from speaking out on political issues.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “This incident is reminiscent of the SNP’s behaviour in the lead-up to the 2014 referendum.

“Now the Scottish Government should detail exactly why this contact was made and what was said.”

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And a Labour spokesman said: “During the independence referendum we saw serious allegations of intimidation of business levelled at the SNP government. It was completely unacceptable then and would be unacceptable now.

Mr Montgomery claimed over the weekend that Scottish business chiefs are “fed up” with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s quest for independence and want her to get on with the day job. But the firm apologised in a statement on Tuesday, insisting the comments were not intended as an opinion on whether Scotland should be independent.

The original comments met with an angry backlash and threats of a boycott from Nationalists on social media, with singer Eddi Reader among those indicating she would stop buying the firm’s products.

But Mr Montgomery said yesterday: “Our explanation to those who may have taken personal offence at recent comments was made independently to address any concerns raised, and categorically not as the result of any influence from, or conversations with, the Scottish Government.”

A spokesman for Mr Brown added: “Their [Highland Spring’s] comments are categorically not as a result of contact with Scottish Government officials, whose job it is to interact with Scotland’s business community.”