Business leaders clash over independence claims

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Scotland’s leading captains of industry have clashed over claims that major investment in the country is being choked off amid uncertainty over independence.

Jim McColl: Investment fund 'oversubscribed'. Picture: Julie Bull

Many projects have already been ditched as markets pull the plug on funding, pro-union business leaders told MSPs today. But one of Scotland’s richest entrepreneurs Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers said his investment funds remain “over-subscribed.”

Scotland would also be tied up “tighter than a kipper” under a currency union with the UK after a Yes vote, one business chief warned, and should instead adopt its own currency.

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Holyrood’s economy committee took evidence from busines chiefs on both sides of the debate today.

Mr McColl, who backs independence, said: “I’ve got 42 investors most of which are from overseas - two-thirds from the US, the rest from Europe and I think I’ve got two in Scotland.

“I’m seeing no nervousness with them at all. In fact we were twice oversubscribed in our last fund which was just recently - that’s businesses that want to invest in Scotland.”

He added: “Among the people I speak to they’re not concerned about the outcome because they’re still going to invest,” he said.

“These are people that are going to invest large sums.”

But Robert Kilgour, Chief Executive, Dow Investments and Chairman of Renaissance Care Scotland, warned that investors are putting a brake on investment because of the uncertainty surrounding independence.

“In the last couple of years, healthcare investment funds in London and abroad that I’ve used over the last 25 years have said to me that

with the uncertainty over independence and the referendum and the currency, we’re not prepared to do any projects - and these are people who have done projects in Scotland in the past 25 years.”

Firms are not ruling future investment in Scotland after a Yes or No vote, but are on hold until the constitutional becomes clearer, according to Mr Kilgour said whose firm employs 650 people.

He added: “Until they see what happens after the referendum, they’re not prepared to invest in projects that I’ve taken to them.”

Rupert Soames of energy giant Aggreko, whose Glasgow-based firm employs 6,500 people worldwide, said capital markets have started paying attention to the referendum debate in recent months as the polls narrow.

“We’ve seen a marked increase in the nervouness in the questions that we’re getting from investors and I think it’s partly to do with the polls.”

Mr Soames also insisted that George Osborne was “absolutely serious” when he warned recently there would not be a currency union after independence.

Mr Soames, who is against independence, insisted such a currency arrangement would leave Scotland “tied up tighter than a kipper” in terms of the restrictions that would be imposed by the UK Treasury.

Scotland should instead adopt a separate currency, perhaps pegged to sterling after a Yes vote, he suggested.