Scottish independence: ‘New opportunities’ claim

Scottish Government enterprise minister Fergus Ewing. Picture: TSPL
Scottish Government enterprise minister Fergus Ewing. Picture: TSPL
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SCOTTISH independence would bring new opportunities to the rest of the UK and Ireland, the Scottish Government’s enterprise minister will tell business leaders in Belfast later today.

Fergus Ewing will set out his ambition for co-operation among the countries at the annual British-Irish Chamber of Commerce conference.

Figures from 2012 show Scottish exports to the rest of the UK were estimated at £47.6 billion, while Scotland’s market for business from the rest of the UK is estimated to be worth £59.4 billion.

Ewing will also point to existing Irish-Scottish work on energy to establish an offshore electricity network and a cross-border collaboration to build on offshore renewable energy potential.

“In an independent Scotland our closest relationships will be with our nearest neighbours and this will lead to new opportunities for Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in terms of trade and investment,” he will say.

“Our status as an independent member of the European Union will ensure free movement of goods, people and services and avoid any barriers to trade with the rest of the UK or the Republic of Ireland.”

His message comes as British ministers warn they are unlikely to accept Scottish Government plans for a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK after a vote for independence in the referendum on September 18.

Mr Ewing will tell the conference: “While our success in increasing international exports can be clearly seen from our trade relationship with the Republic of Ireland, which in total received £815 million of Scottish exports in 2012, we know we can do so much more with independence.

“Scotland’s economy is strong and diverse. With the powers of independence, future Scottish governments will be able to focus investment at home and overseas, we will be able to give more targeted support to companies wishing to export for the first time or increase their existing level of exporting.

“Scottish independence is not about walking away from the UK. It’s about being treated as equals and working together with other nations in the UN, in Nato, in the European Union and organisations like the British-Irish Council.”

Other speakers will include the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and director general of the Northern Ireland Office Julian King.

• IN A speech at University College, London, Nicola Sturgeon will accuse the Westminster establishment of undermining the foundations of the welfare state.

Ms Sturgeon will say: “Independence for Scotland will be good for our relationship with the other nations of the UK.

“Indeed, I will go further and venture to argue that an independent Scotland would be good for - and should be embraced by - all those across the UK who want to see progressive change.

“An independent Scotland could be a progressive beacon for those in the rest of the UK who, like us, crave a different direction to the one set by the Westminster establishment.”