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Scottish independence isn’t good for business, warns Aggreko boss

Rupert Soames, CEO of Aggreko. Picture: Getty

Rupert Soames, CEO of Aggreko. Picture: Getty

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

THE head of one of Scotland’s biggest companies has warned that independence would not be good for business, insisting the disadvantages are “large, serious and likely to arise”.

Rupert Soames, chief executive of Glasgow-based power firm Aggreko, also said that business leaders fear speaking out as it may attract “rains of bile and ire” from angry Nationalists.

Aggreko provides mobile generators for events around the world, including this year’s London Olympics. The firm employs 650 people in Scotland and thousands more globally.

Mr Soames told the House of Lords’ economy committee yesterday that Scots must be clear about the options they face in 2014. But he said: “Over the past couple of years, anyone who has dared open their mouths on the subject with views contrary to the SNP have brought down on themselves rains of bile and ire … a lot of the language is very intemperate.”

Mr Soames, a grandson of Winston Churchill, said his FTSE 100 company would face “enormous additional complexity” from independence in the short term, and there was likely to be a permanent burden.

He said: “The advantages [of independence for Aggreko] would be small, tenuous and unlikely to arise, and the disadvantages would be large, serious and likely to arise.

“It would in the short term undoubtedly produce a great deal of business disruption.”

This would include “significant amounts of resources” to manage the outcome and possible differences in price transfers and taxes, Mr Soames said.

“Broadly speaking, we would think that for our business, Scottish independence would be unlikely to be a positive move.”

He also suggested the UK government was not bold enough in taking the case to the pro-­independence side, as it was reluctant to be accused of bullying.

He added: “The people who are going to feel bullied have probably made up their minds that they’ve been bullied for the last N-hundred years. Pushing it under the table, saying it is going to be easy, is not a very grown-up way of addressing the issue.”

The debate was about more than just the economics of whether Scotland could afford to go it alone, he added.

Mr Soames said he had initially opposed the creation of the Scottish Parliament, but admitted yesterday he was “mistaken” over this and Holyrood had proven itself be a “great success”.

But he said: “There’s an argument that you have one more heave and it could be more successful still. I happen to think that’s mistaken.”

He dismissed the proposition that Scotland was being held back economically by Westminster as a “myth, fantasy and at variance with the truth”.

A spokesman for the SNP said last night: “We welcome all voices and views to the debate on Scotland’s future. Independence offers big advantages for business and families in Scotland, and we are confident of achieving a Yes vote in 2014.”

 

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