Tom Peterkin: Independence questions don’t mean much

All those big questions don't mean so much in the global world of business. Picture: PA
All those big questions don't mean so much in the global world of business. Picture: PA
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During an era of unprecedented economic austerity, it is refreshing to listen to an upbeat voice championing the success of Scottish entrepreneurship.

Indeed, for those of us whose days are spent following the tortured and often obscure hypothetical arguments over Scottish independence, it is instructive to hear from someone who lives in the real world. So it was when Chris Van der Kuyl spoke at this week’s Scotsman conference on the Scottish Government’s independence white paper.

It was difficult to escape the impression that for Mr Van der Kuyl, a Dundonian entrepreneur who has played a leading role in the highly successful Scottish computer games industry, Scottish independence is a slightly parochial argument when compared with the global technological revolution. As he spoke with enthusiasm about the flourishing Scottish entrepreneurial spirit that has blossomed since devolution, he warned of the dangers of getting bogged down in domestic politics.

“We could be gazing at our navels, while the world is reaching for the digitally enabled stars. Let’s not get caught doing that,” implored the chairman of 4J Studios. It would seem that wealth and job creators like Mr Van der Kuyl do not have their eyes set on the Scottish/English Border. Their gaze is fixed further afield to the markets of China and India. That was the message he was keen to get over to the leaders of the Yes and No campaigns.

“Our questions to both sides are not how we compete with ourselves to England, but how we remain relevant in a world facing inexorably East – becoming increasingly competitive and almost entirely knowledge-focused,” Mr Van der Kuyl said. “This revolution is not being played out on national boundaries. Technology has completely altered the complexion on the world we live in.”

That’s not to say he did not have strident views on domestic politics. He was willing to listen to the No campaign’s arguments, but was growing weary of what he described as the “negativity and nothingness” of Better Together.

The Yes campaign, on the other hand, was guilty of encouraging the public to believe that independence would automatically lead to increased benefits and welfare spending. Meanwhile, the recent behaviour of Unite, the union at Grangemouth, got short shrift from a man who knows only too well the challenges of running a business. But the over-riding message was that it is the bigger picture that Mr Van der Kuyl is interested in.

“I get a bit fed up about what will happen to Scotland and England if we vote Yes. I don’t really care,” he said. “I care about what will happen between Scotland and rest of the world if we vote Yes. I really care what happens between Scotland and the rest of the UK if we don’t and I don’t think people are discussing it enough.”