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The business fightback against Scottish independence has been organised from behind a desk in 10 Downing Street by a former aide to Margaret Thatcher with a minimal public persona.

Andrew Dunlop, a Jaguar-driving rightwinger who advised the Iron Lady on tax reform at the time of the poll tax, is one of the least recognisable figures in the coalition. But he has played a major role in attempts to persuade executives to air their concerns publicly about a Yes vote.

A Number 10 aide refused to give the FT even basic facts about Mr Dunlop: “He is a background guy,” he insisted.

The bearded Mr Dunlop, who is in his fifties, comes from Glasgow but now lives on the edge of the South Downs National Park in West Sussex.

That is some 450 miles away from Edinburgh, a point made by the Scottish National party, which criticised the “Thatcherite appointment” when it was made in early 2012.

Since then, Mr Dunlop has been an influential Tory voice in cross-party Better Together negotiations and in encouraging the corporate world to come off the fence.

Lauren McEvatt, until recently a special adviser in the Welsh Office, said Mr Dunlop was “unbelievably calm” and thoughtful. “He is the kind of guy who sees the whole chess board rather than the individual pieces.”

As a young man Mr Dunlop was special adviser to George Younger, the former defence secretary.

Afterwards he joined Thatcher’s policy unit, working alongside others including David Cameron, Andrew Lansley and Lord Hill, Britain’s new European commissioner.

Mr Dunlop subsequently advised two other Tory leaders, John Major and Michael Howard, on Scotland.

Like Lord Hill – who founded Quiller Associates – he also set up his own lobbying firm, Politics International, which specialised in “blue-chip” clients. He co-founded the firm in 1991 and sold it 17 years later – in 2008 – for nearly £3m to Hasgrove, where it was rebranded as Interel Consulting.

Past clients have included the Petrol Retailers’ Association, National Express, Virgin Money and Coca-Cola.

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