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A row has broken out over a letter from 200 business people backing Scottish independence after one of the key signatories said he had asked for his employer’s name to be removed.
In a list trumpeted by the Yes campaign that largely consisted of small and medium-sized businesses, Restaurant Group, owner of the Garfunkel’s and Chiquito restaurant chains, stood out as one of the only large listed companies.
That was in contrast to a letter published the previous day by the No campaign from 130 business leaders opposing independence. Signatories included HSBC Holdings chairman Douglas Flint, the chief executive of engineering firm Weir Group Keith Cochrane, Aggreko interim chief executive Angus Cockburn and Niall Booker, chief executive of Co-operative Bank.
The Yes letter, published in the Herald newspaper, featured smaller companies including a guest house, architectural practices, solicitors and a bakery, as well as Restaurant Group.
However, signatory Derek Mallon, an executive at Restaurant Group, a FTSE 250 company that has a market value of £1.3bn, said his company’s name should not have been published.
Contacted by the Financial Times, he said his signature to the letter was: “my own personal views on the subject [that] have nothing to do with The Restaurant Group and it was a misunderstanding that led to the company name being mentioned.”
Mr Mallon said he would ask Business for Scotland, the organisers of the letter, to remove Restaurant Group’s name from the list. He is deputy managing director for some of the group’s brands and heads 35 restaurants, of which seven are in Scotland.
A spokesman for Restaurant Group said: “We are an apolitical organisation that is not supporting either the Yes or No campaign.”
Business for Scotland said its letter had made clear that signatories were speaking in a personal capacity but added: “If there has been any miscommunication, however, we will happily remove this particular company reference”.
The pro-independence business letter was also signed by Sir Brian Souter, the nationalist donor who is chairman and founder of Stagecoach, the transport group. Other signatories included Jim McColl, the chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers Capital, an investor in industrial business, and Ralph Topping, the former chief executive of bookmaker William Hill.
The Yes supporters said independence would give Scotland the power “to give our many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive world”, adding it would provide “more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed”.
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