Indy ref: the impact Scottish independence would have on business

Auld Enemy? New Friend? Businesses both sides of the border face major change, but is there a risk of further fragmentation?

The Sunday Post asks two experts and two politicians for their views on the issue.

Expert view: Laurie Clark, managing director of Anglo-Scottish Concrete and member of Business for Scotland

“We hear a lot about the risks of Scottish independence but less about the opportunities.

Change of any kind is a challenge and the No camp is doing its best to frighten us all into keeping everything the same. Change is exciting and it is vital in business.

If you try to stand still, you die. That’s what happened to the dinosaurs. Once you have got used to the idea, all kinds of new possibilities start to appear.

Anyone who has changed their career, gone to live in a different country or even got married and had children knows this.

What kind of new relationships might we see on the business front? On one level, not much will change. Trade between England and Scotland is very important to both countries. Business will be keen to see that trade continue, so there will be a lot of pressure on politicians to make life as simple as possible.

No one actually wants to see border posts or passport controls or separate currencies between England and Scotland, however much political posturing there is in the run-up to the referendum vote.

On another level, Scottish independence could change the nature of business in Britain to the benefit of the north of England. In 2013, the Association of North-East councils published a report called Borderlands, asking how the north of England could profit from greater Scottish autonomy.

The answer was that a centre of economic power in Scotland could work to counteract the magnetic attraction of London and the South-East.

If businesses in the North of England recognise it, then there are enticing prospects for co-operation.

The message in the report was to look north, not south. That’s just one example of how an independent Scotland can bring a change in business attitudes to the benefit of both countries.”

Linda Colley, historian and author of Acts of Union and Disunion

“The impact of a Yes vote may be huge on both sides of the Border. Ever since the union of crowns in 1603 some hundred years before the Act/Treaty of Union of 1706/07 there has been a sense that this large island of Great Britain is some kind of political unit.

So much of the referendum debate is dominated by the immediate economic implications, but this leaves out what could be the more profound effects on the future of a UK without Scotland. For instance, if Scotland secedes, what effect will this have on England itself?

Part of the reason for growing support of independence and for increased worry in the so-called ‘Celtic fringe’, has been the growing concentration of population in England. This is much more the case than in the 19th Century: London now holds as many people as Wales and Scotland together. Great Britain is a bottom-heavy island, and this affects relations within England as well as between the UK nations.

One of the repercussions of a UK without Scotland would be what might happen in the north of England. Historically, parts of the north once belonged to Scotland, and often acted in tandem with groupings in Scotland. If Scotland gets sheared off, then the south of England becomes even more powerful. You would be more likely, at least in the short term, to get Conservative administrations in power in London.

Given that the English north-east and large parts of the north-west are Conservative no-go areas, you might find fragmentation starting to work through England, prompting people in the north to say: ‘Well, you know as long as we had Scotland we were guaranteed regular periods of Labour government, but what’s going to happen now?’

And you could get the same feeling in Wales. Alternatively, if the north of England became a frontier region again, another possibility might be that it would do it good, as London would have to give it more attention.”

No Vote John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle

“It may be surprising to some but Carlisle is almost the geographic centre of Great Britain. It is also the northernmost English city and just a few miles away from the Scottish border.

Alex Salmond recently visited Carlisle to say that an independent Scotland would be best of friends with the north of England. It may have passed him by, but this is already the case and nowhere is this more apparent than in Carlisle, where social and economic bonds between the two countries are incredibly strong.

Shoppers, sports fans, businesses, tourists, friends and family all stream across the border uninhibited, and without the sense that they are entering a different country.

If Scotland were to vote Yes to independence, I believe these bonds and relationships would undoubtedly change and in my view in a way that would be detrimental to both sides of the border.

Businesses with offices or branches on either side of the border would have different regulations and laws to adhere to all adding extra costs and administrative burdens if they wanted to operate in the other country. On top of that there may even be different currencies and possibly a very different relationship with the EU to contend with.

Family and individual relationships would also change. Suddenly, families would be split and our sense of common bond and togetherness would be lost. I for one would end up having a mother and a sister being citizens of another country, when for all of our lives we have been part of, and identified with, the success story that is the United Kingdom.

As a Scot in Carlisle, my accent is not considered foreign. Indeed, it can be heard in our schools, shops, and public services across the city. Many of my constituents have friends, family, customers and work colleagues across the border.

An independent Scotland would drive these relationships apart, which is why it is my firm conviction is that it is for the good of all that Carlisle remains at the heart of the UK.”

Yes Vote Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs

“Almost everyone I know in Scotland has a connection to the rest of the UK whether they were born there, have family there, or like me spent time living there.

I was born in Scotland but spent my formative years in Lincolnshire, and have many happy memories. I can remember my dad playing cricket every Saturday, and we had the pleasure of introducing guising to our neighbours one Hallowe’en something which they’d never experienced, but something which quickly caught on.

But this referendum is not about how Scottish or British people feel it’s about what outcome will lead to the kind of country and society we all want to live in.

An independent Scotland will be one of the world’s richest countries wealthier per head than Japan, France, the UK as a whole and the majority of developed countries.

The great benefit of independence is that we will have the powers to make sure our immense wealth benefits the people who live here far more.

Rather than having decisions made for us by Westminster we will be able to design an economic policy dedicated to creating more job opportunities and a more secure economy here in Scotland.

None of that of course means any of the close family ties that enrich our islands will be in any way diminished.

Most people laugh at some of the sillier scare stories, such as border posts, coming from the No side.

We’ll continue to enjoy close economic ties and indeed build on them. It makes sense to co-operate in areas like energy and defence.

We can also be a beacon to people in the rest of the UK by showing the benefits of holding true to the idea of a publicly-run NHS and a decent social security system.

Whatever happens in September, Scotland and the UK will remain the best of friends and the closest of allies.”