Swinney and Gray to battle over small businesses

John Swinney will be pushing the case for independence
John Swinney will be pushing the case for independence
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Finance secretary John Swinney and his Labour shadow Iain Gray will be vying for the small business vote at a debate due to be held in Edinburgh tomorrow.

The event, organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), will come less than 48 hours after last night’s televised debate between SNP First Minister Alex Salmond and Better Together leader Alistair Darling.

Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor at the FSB, said small firms account for more than one million jobs – equivalent to half of Scotland’s private sector workforce – so the answers from both Gray and Swinney at the debate will be relevant to a far wider audience than business owners alone.

He added: “With finance and the economy so key to the whole independence debate, we’re delighted that the Scottish Parliament’s top money men will be making their case direct to our members. They are both hugely experienced politicians and I’m sure we’re going to have a high-quality debate.

“We know that our members are hungry for facts – two in five say that better referendum information could sway their vote, so there could be plenty of votes up for grabs on the night.”

A survey published by the FSB in June found 58 per cent of its members regarded the quality of debate in the independence campaign so far as “poor” or “very poor”.

The organisation, which has 19,000 members north of the Border, said 27 per cent of those polled said they were “very excited” about the opportunities for a separate Scotland, but 
54 per cent confessed to feeling “very concerned” about the risks arising from a Yes vote.

The FSB also commissioned advice from the University of Edinburgh Business School, which said small firms could find it “beneficial” to set up registered offices south of the Border after independence.

More than 300 business owners are expected to attend tomorrow’s debate, which takes place at the Our Dynamic Earth venue next to Holyrood. It will also be broadcast over the internet.