Scottish independence: CBI asks new questions

BUSINESS leaders are urging First Minister Alex Salmond to answer a new list of questions on independence.

50 more key points raised as firms 'need to know' what lies in store for economy after split from UK. Picture: PA
50 more key points raised as firms 'need to know' what lies in store for economy after split from UK. Picture: PA
50 more key points raised as firms 'need to know' what lies in store for economy after split from UK. Picture: PA

CBI Scotland has compiled a paper listing 50 key points raised by its members on issues ranging from VAT and pensions to the minimum wage and gambling.

The paper, approved by CBI Scotland’s 45-strong council last week, follows the publication in December of a document listing 177 questions which its members want to see addressed by the Holyrood government ahead of its white paper on independence due in the autumn.

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Many of those questions dealt with broad economic ­issues, such as fiscal and ­monetary policy, defence, competition and energy.

This new list, seen by Scotland on Sunday, raises a number of new ­issues – some specific to certain ­industries – and expands on some of the earlier ones.

They were considered by CBI Scotland’s referendum working group, and the five-page paper has been sent to the First Minister. It is referred to as “the second paper in our series”, and the CBI confirmed there will be others before the white paper is published.

The government is asked whether there would be targets to reduce or eliminate the public sector deficit and whether there would be new tax bands or new rates of VAT.

Businesses want to know if an independent Scotland would apply the bank levy, change the system of tax reliefs or the rules on maternity and paternity pay.

In a foreword to the document, the CBI says: “The decision on Scotland’s future is rightly and ultimately one for the electorate.

“However, industry and wider civic society has a role to play too, and the CBI is committed to ensuring that the needs of the economy and business are properly reflected in the referendum debate.

“Our members are keen to understand the Scottish Government’s plans and vision for the business landscape in the event of independence.”

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It says there are “gaps in knowledge about what Scottish independence would mean for business and our economy”, though it recognises that some issues would have to be resolved through negotiation with various institutions, such as the Euro­pean Union, after a vote in ­favour.

“However, for many other aspects the Scottish Government could and should provide clarity over what it would like to achieve, and a candid assessment of the benefits, risks and costs of doing so well in advance of the referendum,” it adds.

Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, said the government had not provided answers to the first list of questions.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to CBI Scotland chairman Nosheena Mobarik acknowledging receipt of that document and invited its key officials to a meeting. She told them that the issues raised would be addressed in the white paper likely to be published in November, probably on St Andrew’s Day.

But McMillan insisted that the business community 
needed answers now so that they could plan ahead in the event of a vote in favour of independence.

“The government has not answered the first list of questions. Either it is inconvenient to do so or they do not have credible answers,” he said.

“We are giving ministers the opportunity to satisfy the business community. Unfortunately, they seem reluctant to do that.”

Twitter: @TerryMurden1