DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to hold talks with bosses at the Weir Group after the engineering giant warned today of substantial risks in the event of Scottish independence.
Ms Sturgeon insisted Scotland would still be “business-friendly” after a Yes vote, but was told thousands of jobs would be at risk.
MSPs clashed over the issue at Holyrood, where Ms Sturgeon was standing in for Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions today.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We welcome (the report’s) contribution to the debate and I’m looking forward early next month to meeting staff and senior management at the Weir group to discuss these very issues and I hope reassure them on some of the points they’ve made.”
The engineering firm was among many who opposed devolution before the 1979 and 1997 referendums on the issue, she said.
“They warned then of consequences that simply did not materialize,” Ms Sturgeon added.
“All of these companies are still here and all of them are prospering and the reason they’re prospering is that Scotland is a business-friendly country and an independent Scotland will continue to be a business-friendly country.”
The report states Scotland could be a successful country, Ms Sturgeon said, and it also points out that independence would bring decision making closer to home.
But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the report made it clear that an independent Scotland would face increased borrowing costs and significant cuts, all of which would hit business.
More than 50,000 Scots are employed by firms which have raised concerns in recent weeks, the Tory leader added.
“We know the SNP’s stock response to these responses,” she added.
“The First Minister dismisses them, the Cybernats attack them, and SNP backbenchers shout them down both in this chamber and committee hearings.”
Ms Davidson added: “Can I ask the Deputy First Minister, will she stand apart from all these negative angry men?”
Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the Weir Group, said the costs of leaving the UK were “guaranteed” while the benefits were “uncertain”, as it published a report looking at the impact of independence on business.
The study, by Oxford Economics [PDF], was commissioned in response to the Scottish Government’s white paper for independence.
Mr Cochrane said: “As a political document the Scottish Government’s white paper paints a picture of independence as being a risk-free option with only potential benefits.
“However voters should be aware that what they are being asked to say Yes to carries substantial risks to our economy and therefore to the quality of life of millions of people.”
The study said that leaving the UK would create “a number of costs and uncertainties” for business with “fewer, more uncertain benefits”, a report has concluded.