Independence: Yes campaign chase businesses

Jim Mather poses his questions at the meeting. Picture: Lesley Martin
Jim Mather poses his questions at the meeting. Picture: Lesley Martin
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UNDECIDED business people in Edinburgh are the subject of the latest pro-independence campaign initiative.

Yes Scotland hosted an “intimate” gathering of around 30 people and asked them what they would like to see in a ­future independent Scotland.

The meeting in Leith’s ­Malmaison hotel was the first of its kind, but is likely to be ­repeated around the country.

Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins told the group the evening was not about political speeches, but rather having a conversation on “the aspirations and ideas people have about the future of Scotland”.

He said: “We’ve launched local groups in more than 150 areas right around Scotland, we’ve also been holding quite large-scale public meetings. This is a more intimate or select gathering. It’s to make it a more conversational, interactive event.”

Former SNP enterprise minister and business consultant Jim Mather, now designated a “senior ambassador” for the Yes campaign, then posed a series of questions, asking the audience to imagine the future – what could Edinburgh and Leith be like in an independent Scotland? How would we be earning our keep? What ­advantages would we have? What would have changed?

“Scotland would have an ­advantage because of our size,” said one man, “The UK is too big, too unwieldy, that’s why it’s being badly run.”

“We would have more of a blank sheet of paper,” said another participant.

Another suggestion was: “A Scottish Broadcasting Corporation commissioning all our local playwrights and filmmakers.” As the crowd shouted out answers, Mr Mather tapped at a keyboard, adding their words and phrases to diagrams on a large screen at the front of the room, while elaborating on their comments, telling ­anecdotes and quoting business theories from books he had read or people he had met.

The evening certainly made an impression on those who attended.

Gill Murphy, partner in design company Thin Red Line, said: “I came away feeling quite optimistic about the potential of independence and I really appreciated the opportunity to look beyond the date. It gave me a sense of what could be achieved.

“I hope people will get more involved and weigh up the ­possibilities. That’s what you do in any kind of business when you’re looking at new ­opportunities.”

Suzanne Gibson, owner of Eero and Riley gift shop in Easter Road, enjoyed the event but said she was still undecided.

“I’m really glad I went along,” she said. “It was really engaging. The positivity of it was very refreshing and lots of interesting things came up in the room.

“But it could take quite a lot to convince me. I’m not a ­politically motivated ­person, but I was brought up in a household that valued being British. I’m still at an early stage in making my decision. It could be a slow process.”

She said she had not detected a strong mood for or against independence among the business community, adding: “I’m sure in the next few months people will start talking about it a lot more.”

Some of those at the meeting had already decided to vote ‘Yes’. Mark Lister, a leadership consultant, rejected the idea the discussion had held out ­unrealistic possibilities.

“I don’t think this is a flight of fancy,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of feeling out there that the status quo provides a lot of restrictions and holds people back.”