Business chief attacks SNP ‘ridicule’ of critics

Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams/TSPL
Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams/TSPL
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ONE of Scotland’s leading business figures has slammed the Scottish Government’s strong-arm tactics over the “ridicule” and flak it heaps on critics of independence.

Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, insists that “legitimate” questions over the SNP’s plans to leave the UK should not be met with accusations of “trying talk Scotland down”.

The organisation will remain opposed to separation, Mr McMillan said, until key answers are provided on issues such as inflation levels after independence, the full costs of “statehood” and membership of the European Union.

“We have asked similar questions of the SNP in the past and, I regret to say, have been criticised by their leaders for doing so,” Mr McMillan told business leaders last night. “But these questions are important and legitimate and must not be brushed aside or ridiculed by the Scottish Government and their supporters.

“And those who put such questions must not be branded by the SNP Scottish Government as talking Scotland down.

“This is about securing Scotland’s best interest, and business undertaking due diligence in support of that interest.

“And until these many questions are answered to the full satisfaction of our members, CBI Scotland will have no option but, reasonably and sensibly, to continue to oppose the government’s plans to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.”

Mr McMillan wondered if the SNP had asked the EU for an opinion on whether Scotland would be entitled to join automatically: “If they have, what is the opinion, and if they haven’t, do they intend to seek one?”

He also called for clarity over who will set Scottish interests rates if the pound is retained, the costs of setting up all the apparatus of various government departments, as well as spending and borrowing levels after secession.”

But a spokesman for finance secretary John Swinney pointed to Mr McMillan’s opposition to devolution.

“As the record shows, the fact of the matter is that Mr McMillan took exactly the same approach in his hostility to a Scottish Parliament in the 1990s,” the spokesman said.

He added that other leading business figures are open to the prospect of an independent Scotland.

“Scotland’s leading business person and entrepreneur, Jim McColl, has said many people in business are convinced that a productive and prosperous future for Scotland depends on securing real economic powers for the parliament through constitutional change,” the spokesman added.

“And the director-general of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, said he is ‘relaxed’ about the possibility of Scotland becoming independent.”

The Scottish Government has pledged to hold a referendum on Scottish independence at some point between 2014 and 2016.

Labour leader Iain Gray last night welcomed Mr McMillan’s speech as a “powerful and positive” intervention in the debate.

“I very much welcome his warning that those who ask questions of the SNP should not face infantile accusations of ‘talking Scotland down’,” Mr Gray said.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the CBI was representing businesses concerned over independence and the “harm it could do to their livelihoods”.

“This is not talking Scotland down, it is talking down the SNP and their reckless obsession with independence,” he said.