'Substantial risks' from Yes vote

Preston and Leyland Citizen: Scotland's economy "could succeed" if there is a Yes vote in September's independence referendum, a study says Scotland's economy "could succeed" if there is a Yes vote in September's independence referendum, a study says

A Yes vote in the independence referendum involves "substantial risks" to Scotland's economy and the quality of life of millions of people, one of the country's leading businessmen has warned.

Keith Cochrane, chief executive of Glasgow-based engineering firm the Weir Group, said the costs of leaving the UK were "guaranteed" while the benefits were "uncertain".

He spoke out as Weir, one of Scotland's largest companies employing 15,000 people across the world, published a report looking at the impact of independence on business.

The study, by Oxford Economics, was commissioned in response to the Scottish Government's white paper for independence.

Mr Cochrane said: " As a political document the Scottish Government's white paper paints a picture of independence as being a risk-free option with only potential benefits.

"However voters should be aware that what they are being asked to say Yes to carries substantial risks to our economy and therefore to the quality of life of millions of people."

The study said that leaving the UK would create "a number of costs and uncertainties" for business with "fewer, more uncertain benefits", a report has concluded.

While it said Scotland's economy "could succeed" if there is a Yes vote in September's independence referendum, it added: " The end of the Union would create a number of costs and uncertainties, and fewer, more uncertain benefits, for those businesses so vital to Scotland's future prosperity, as it goes its own way."

Whatever currency arrangements are established, it fears Scottish companies are "likely to face higher funding costs post-independence".

Meanwhile if an independent Scotland cannot reach a deal to keep the pound in a currency union - something the main UK parties have already rejected - it says businesses will face additional costs if the country is forced to adopt its own currency after independence.

Changing currency could mean "substantial one-off costs for business, amounting to around £800 million", according to the report, along with "ongoing transaction costs on Scottish businesses and households of around £500 million per year".

It also warned that "fiscal realities will likely constrain the policy choices of an independent Scotland", arguing that "an independent Scotland is likely to need to tax Scottish business overall more heavily than if it remained in the UK".

Mr Cochrane said after looking at "all the available information" the "outcome is clear".

He said: " The costs of independence are guaranteed but the benefits are uncertain.

"That risks making Scotland less competitive, not more, and must be a concern for all of us who want to see our country continue to succeed."

However Ivan McKee, a director with pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said: "I am in no doubt that an independent Scotland will be positive for the economy and the wider community. It is the business opportunity of a lifetime."

Mr McKee added: "As the Weir Group report says, 'It is certainly possible for Scotland to foster a thriving economy as an independent nation'."

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