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Scottish referendum: Business must be part of the debate

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Advocate General says Scottish businesses must not be intimidated from taking part in the independence debate.

Lord Wallace

Scottish businesses must not be intimidated from taking part in the independence debate, Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace QC will tell a CBI audience in Aberdeen today.

Following the recent row over what stance academics should be allowed to take in the debate, Lord Wallace said it was vitally important that ‘trusted voices from academia and business give voters the benefit of their views and experience irrespective of which side of the debate they support’.

He will say that ‘many of us know from personal experience that when a message gets in the way of independence it often ends up with the messenger being in the firing line’.

The Advocate General will also say that the report from the IFS presents some ‘uncomfortable realities’ which the Scottish Government must confront in their White Paper to be published on Tuesday.

Lord Wallace will say:

CBI Scotland and its members have already played a vitally important part in clarifying what those questions are – and let me say how grateful I am to you for choosing to engage in the debate from the outset. These are matters which are too important to be left only to politicians.

It is vitally important that trusted voices from academia and business give voters the benefit of their views and experience irrespective on which side of the debate they support.

Many of us know from personal experience that when a message gets in the way of independence it often ends up with the messenger being in the firing line. I urge you not to be intimidated out of this most important of debates.

Together, our economy is powered by a domestic market of 60 million individuals, rather than just 5 million. We have 4.5 million companies rather than 320,000 – with no boundaries, no borders, no customs, but with a common currency, single financial system, and a single body of rules and regulations. The size and strength of the UK economy has enabled the UK Government to support investment in the North Sea by offering tax reliefs and allowances equivalent to £3000 pounds for every man, woman and child in Scotland.

And by pooling our resources, we are better placed to meet some of the demographic challenges that we know we will face in the future. Funding pensions through contributions from the working populations of the whole of the UK is more sustainable than doing so in Scotland alone: you don’t need to be an expert economist to work that one out.

But while the UK Government has taken seriously its duty to provide answers about Scotland’s place in the UK, the Scottish Government has answered almost every tough question with the refrain: “Wait for the White Paper”. On Monday the Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report analysing the fiscal sustainability of an independent Scotland.

The report highlighted - even based on a set of optimistic assumptions - an independent Scotland would face a more challenging fiscal outlook than the rest of the UK .

Their independent analysis reveals that, even on the most optimistic scenario, an independent Scotland would require cuts almost two and a half times as deep than if we stay in the UK.

That would mean either a 9 percentage point increase in the basic rate of income tax or a 6 per cent reduction in all public spending.

The Scottish Government has to confront these uncomfortable realities in their forthcoming White Paper. The issues matter deeply to all businesses and households in Scotland.

Published 21 November 2013