The president of the CBI, Britain’s leading business lobby, has claimed that “90 per cent” of Scottish business opposes independence.
Sir Mike Rake, who also chairs BT Group and is deputy chairman of Barclays, warned of a lost decade of uncertainty if the Yes campaign wins the referendum next week.
“The uncertainty will last for easily 10 years,” Sir Mike told the Financial Times in an interview. “Inevitably this uncertainty will lead to a slowdown in investment in the UK as a whole as well as Scotland.”
Sir Mike’s comments came amid a flurry of warnings from Scottish domiciled companies that they were preparing to move their bases to England in the event of a Yes vote.
The CBI has long argued that Scottish independence would severely damage business both north and south of the border, highlighting uncertainty over the currency and regulatory regimes as areas for concern. Sir Mike said companies in Scotland agreed with its views.
“Ninety per cent of Scottish business supports what we’ve been saying,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of businesses do seek a No vote.”
Sir Mike said that not only would the implications of a Yes vote be overwhelmingly negative for Scotland and UK businesses, but that the wider consequences outside the UK needed to be considered.
He said the debate over secession would spread across Europe, which could not afford such a “costly distraction” after six years of economic downturn.
“Anything like this is almost an indulgent aspiration when what we need [in Europe] is economic growth and jobs,” he said. “Scotland’s allies and friends all over the world are hoping that it’s going to make the right decision, which is No, for them – perhaps apart from Catalonia.”
apply for EU membership, and the tumult that would result if the rest of the UK voted to leave the EU.
“To rejoin [the EU] it would have to agree to be in the euro, and to have Schengen and to have a border [with the UK]. And if we have a border, we have costs of currency and movement.”
He also warned of the impact of independence on any potential in/out referendum over the UK’s EU membership. “We want the Scots, who are very sensible about the European Union, to stay in and contribute to that debate and to keep their votes.”
Sir Mike said he believed any possible benefit to Scottish business after independence – such as regulatory and tax regimes designed specifically for the region – were minimal.
If voters did opt for independence next Thursday, Sir Mike said the immediate challenge would be to stabilise markets. “We will be looking to government on both sides of the border to create some stability.”
He said that he believed both business and government had been too complacent about the possibility of a vote for independence. But he argued that the CBI itself had not been. “We were very clear from the beginning. We asked the right questions,” he said.
“Our statements don’t appear to have had much impact.”
Some of the blame, he argued, was because of politicians’ and big business’s lack of credibility with the public.
“We need to try to get across what business does that’s good for society, to address why the public has lost confidence in business leaders and big business.”