John Boyle: The Economic Case for No

Separation from the Union means putting up barriers to our biggest export market and a loss of security in difficult times, writes John Boyle

Former Motherwell chairman John Boyle. Picture: Robert Perry

My opinion on separation is a matter of public record. I am proud to be Scottish and British. I will vote No with my heart and my head. I think Scotland is better in the United Kingdom, and that it would be an economic and social catastrophe of epic proportions to disengage with the rest of the United Kingdom.

The people of Scotland will make their decision as to whether to break up the United Kingdom based on what will be best for jobs, their mortgages, savings and the future of their families.

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As a businessman, I would always weigh up carefully before making a big decision, “kick the tyres” so to speak. The people of Scotland will be doing exactly that when deciding whether or not to break up Britain.

The problem for the Nationalists is that even the softest of toe pokes from the Scottish public will see the tyres of their economic argument deflating.

I have absolutely no doubt that the best future for the Scottish economy, Scottish business and Scottish jobs is a No vote this September.

In the UK, Scotland is part of the third-largest economy in Europe and the sixth-largest in the world.

The result of this is Scottish businesses – whether it is a family-run firm that has existed for generations, or a start-up from an ambitious young entrepreneur with an idea and a dream – can sell their products or services to a domestic market of 63 million across the UK rather than just five million in Scotland, barrier free and hassle free.

This means that Scotland sells more to the rest of the UK, our friends and neighbours in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, than we do to the rest of the world.

No matter how many promises, assertions and fairytales the SNP try to cook up, they simply cannot match that. The UK domestic market is good for Scottish business, it’s good for Scottish jobs, and it’s good for Scotland and all of us who live here.

Separation would put that at risk. Scottish-based companies whose customers are based in the rest of the UK would seriously consider whether they should relocate south of the Border.

Today, one in five Scottish jobs is with a company based elsewhere in the UK. Putting up barriers puts these jobs at risk.

Every business tries to grow its customer base, and no business would seriously see its domestic market shrinking by 80 per cent as a good thing.

Our economy as a whole is stronger as part of the UK. By pooling and sharing our resources across the entire UK we have more money to spend on our public services like schools and hospitals.

By contrast, the economy of a separate Scotland would be hugely reliant on oil. Last year oil revenues dropped by £4.4 billion, effectively the equivalent of the entire Scottish schools budget.

It also means when things go wrong, we are part of something bigger and can protect ourselves. During the 2008 banking crisis the entire UK underwrote the cost, keeping money in cash machines and mortgages safe.

A separate Scotland would find that impossible. The size of banking assets in a separate Scotland would be 1254 per cent of Scottish GDP.

This of course, is in part due to the size and success of our financial services sector in Scotland. Edinburgh and Glasgow are world-leading financial cities. They are in that position because of the winning combination of Scottish talent taking advantage of the UK pound and the UK domestic market.

Impartial experts, like the Institute of Fiscal Studies, have been clear – a separate Scotland would face tough choices on tax and spending, with around £6bn in either spending cuts or tax increases needed to get our finances on a sustainable path.

So our economy thrives as part of the UK because our integration. The UK is the oldest and most successful economic union in the world, and the attempt to unravel it by the Nationalists is exactly what poses a threat to our economy.

It is nothing to do with Scottish invention, intelligence, entrepreneurship or talent. We lead the world in these things. It is the simple fact that, for men like Alex Salmond who have spent a lifetime trying to break up the UK, economic success is coming under the wrong flag. It is throwing out the baby because he never liked the bathwater.

We see this every time the First Minister passes comment on Scottish unemployment figures. If they rise it’s the fault of the Union, if they fall it’s in spite of it. The doublethink would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.

When you are blinded by an obsession for decades you will say and do anything to convince yourself that you are right, but the people of Scotland will always pick fact over assertion.

And it is fact that, if we say No Thanks to separation, we can keep the pound and retain the most successful economic union in the world. We can safeguard Scottish jobs and create more by having the best of both worlds, our own Scottish Parliament, with more powers guaranteed, backed up by the strength, stability and security of the UK.

• John Boyle OBE is an entrepreneur and former chairman of Motherwell FC. He writes here in a personal capacity