Richard Branson on fence over Scottish independence

Sir Richard Branson has said it is “not his place” to give a view on the Scottish independence referendum.

Sir Richard Branson during last night's  Question and Answer Session. Picture: PA
Sir Richard Branson during last night's Question and Answer Session. Picture: PA

The businessman was speaking at the Scottish Business Awards in Edinburgh last night in front of around 2,000 guests including politicians such as First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.

Broadcaster Alastair Stewart hosted a question-and-answer session with Sir Richard and asked him if he thought Scotland’s famous entrepreneurial track record could be better maintained as part of the UK or under independence.

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The Virgin founder received a round of applause from the audience when he said: “I had a feeling this was going to come up. I’m not sure it’s my place to intervene and I know that’s a cop out.

“I’m coming to the Commonwealth Games, maybe by then I’ll say something.”

Sir Richard was named 24th on the Sunday Times 2014 Billionaire list released at the weekend, and is said to be worth £3.6 billion.

He told the audience at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre: “I really do think it’s for the Scots to decide, they need to look at all the facts in as much detail as possible, I think they all need to get out there and vote and whatever the outcome is I’ve got a feeling we’ll still be great friends.”

He jokingly added: “My wife is Glaswegian and my grandmother is from Edinburgh and even that was a problem when we started going out. My grandmother was very upset and then suddenly one day she started liking her and said to me, ‘she’s no longer got an accent’.

“Maybe if I keep talking I can avoid the subject (the referendum).”

Mr Stewart pointed out that one of Sir Richard’s business rivals, British Airways boss Willie Walsh, has given a view on the referendum and said it could be ‘’a positive development’’ because of the Scottish Government’s plans to reduce air passenger duty by half.

Sir Richard said: “I think a 50% reduction in airline tax is maybe the first time I’ve agreed with him (Willie Walsh) about anything, I think all of our travelling public would be delighted about that.”

He also told the audience that businesses around the world need to do more to help social causes and and improve links with society.