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Scottish referendum: intimidation has no part to play in debate

Businesses pointing out independence risks should not be silenced says Scottish Secretary

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Alistair Carmichael

The economic risks of independence must not be hidden behind a blanket of intimidation, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will say today.

Those who recognise the economic problems independence would create on currency, jobs and pensions must be able to openly discuss and explain these issues in the remaining weeks before the referendum, Mr Carmichael will tell a Scottish Financial Enterprise audience in London this evening.

He expressed concern over incidents in the past week that have seen a single mother targeted by the First Minister’s office, Scotland’s best-selling author abused online and a former chair of the Scotch Whisky Association admitting that business is on the receiving end of intimidating calls from pro-independence politicians.

Mr Carmichael will say:

Many of you have made significant inroads into the debate this year, through statements in your annual reports and elsewhere. There have also been many other business opinions and analytical reports on important issues like the currency.

This is all useful for the debate – a calm, collected and evidence-based view on the potential impact of leaving the UK.

We know business people are among the best placed to make critical judgements when it comes to our economic future – where you are, the bottom line tells its own story – unswayed by emotion, based on empirical fact and cold analysis. The independence debate has posed many legitimate questions on the economic risks for Scotland around currency, jobs and pensions, to name just a few.

That rational approach has just as much place in our debate as the passionate positions adopted by those intent on leaving the UK.

Scottish business knows better than most just how ‘passionate’ the Yes side can be when the economic risks of independence are aired.

There is a place for passion in our debate but there is no place for intimidation and abuse.

Claire Lally and JK Rowling should never be targets for abuse because they offer their view on the future of their country. It should not require courage to question the independence proposition but the sad truth is that it now does.

It is depressing when Gavin Hewitt admitted last week that business gets intimidating calls from pro-independence politicians when they pose difficult questions. But it makes me angry that no one seems to regard this as anything out of the ordinary or unusual. Let me be 100 per cent clear. Intimidation takes many forms and all are unacceptable.

I’m not asking people to take sides. But don’t keep quiet. Put the facts as you see them out there. Make your case. Share what you know with people in Scotland about to make this historic decision. That’s the best way to help Scotland through this debate.

Speak up and don’t worry about those who would rather not hear any inconvenient truths. They are wrong to pretend there are no economic risks around independence. Intimidation and abuse has absolutely no part to play in this debate.

Published 17 June 2014