1 in 5 believe independence would benefit economy

Angus MacSween: Iomart chief voiced concerns about UK split. Picture: Lewis Houghton
Angus MacSween: Iomart chief voiced concerns about UK split. Picture: Lewis Houghton
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MORE than half of Scotland’s small firms will vote against independence in the coming referendum on 18 September, according to a fresh survey that shows many companies fear losing business in the event of a Yes vote.

With less than three months to go before the vote, the poll by Bibby Financial Services shows just one in five small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) believes that breaking away from the rest of the UK would be a positive move for the Scottish economy.

Alan Anderson, the firm’s head of sales for Scotland, said: “A lot of businesses are particularly concerned about trading being impacted in a negative way by independence, which is why it is key for them to be aware of what changes a Yes vote may bring about to their supply chains.”

Last month Angus MacSween, the co-founder and chief executive of web hosting and cloud computing group Iomart, said he was concerned that English customers may be discouraged from doing business with firms in a separate Scotland as he described the independence campaign as a “very silly idea”.

Aggreko, Alliance Trust, Standard Life, Royal Bank of Scotland and Weir Group have also expressed fears in recent months over the outcome of the referendum.

Labour’s shadow business minister Ian Murray said: “Our brightest future is to remain part of the UK. Having barrier-free access to a single market of over 63 million people across the UK, instead of just five million people in Scotland, is vital for jobs in Scotland. Our small and medium-sized businesses can trade freely with customers and firms elsewhere in the UK, without any differences in currency or regulatory regime. Where is the sense in putting up a barrier between Scottish firms and their customers in the rest of the UK?”

Bibby’s survey of 500 SMEs found 26 per cent feared they would lose customers following a Yes vote, and 56 per cent said they would be voting No. Independence was favoured by 24 per cent of those polled.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scotland is a wealthy country and the Government is committed to ensuring a supportive business environment and recognises that Scotland’s businesses – both large and small – are the primary drivers of sustainable economic growth.”

She added that, in the event of a Yes vote, Holyrood would “use our new responsibilities to improve business support, strengthen innovation, reduce the burden of taxation and regulation, improve access to finance and provide further support for entrepreneurship”.

Anderson said: “With less than 100 days to go until the vote, a lot can still change but from what businesses tell us, the biggest concern is the uncertainty that independence could bring to many important parts of the Scottish and UK economies.”