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I don’t fear for the career of Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
I know that it looks as though, yet again, Tian Tian is not pregnant. But I am sure that sooner or later Edinburgh Zoo will be blessed with panda cubs, which will draw visitors in droves.
Director of giant pandas is a specialist role and as such, if Mr Valentine wants to move to another zoo with pandas, I am sure that getting a work permit will be no problem. After all, how many specialists in giant pandas can there be outside China?
But for many of his Scottish compatriots, the story is not the same and I fear for their careers if the yes vote prevails on September 18 and Scotland becomes an independent country.
Why am I even expressing an opinion? Although our family has strong Scottish roots, and my real name is 100 per cent Scots, we gave up our right to vote in the referendum when we set sail from the Morvern peninsula to Australia in 1853.
But Scotland is a place that I love and respect, and whose young are among the most educated and talented in the world – just look at the space technology they have helped develop, for example. I do so hope that they don’t vote to restrict their future.
I know as an employer how challenging it is to get a work permit for someone outside the EU, even someone as highly skilled as the director of giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, whether or not he is able to produce a new generation of endangered black and white bears (not raccoons, according to the good folks at Washington’s Smithsonian National Zoo).
Last year, I had a serious skills shortage and needed to relocate someone from the US for a year; I knew beyond all conceivable doubt that no one in the UK had the skills I needed, and I needed a year’s cover to train someone else up.
The expense and the hassle involved in arranging this was almost enough to make me lose the will to live.
I run a small business, but there are many more small businesses than large ones, and if that is what employers have to do in order to hire someone from Scotland, while they wait to join the EU, then I fear easily employable Scots will become as endangered as Pandas.
Why would any Scot want to restrict their options? They could argue that those restrictions will vanish when they rejoin the EU. But to rejoin, it looks as though Scotland will need to make some changes, including removing the privileges they currently extend to Scottish students who attend Scottish universities free of charge. That alone will severely hamper the future of young Scots.
So let’s set aside the emotional arguments about nationalism, and identity, and focus on what really matters. Even more than removing the uncertainty that is holding businesses back from investing in Scotland, what matters is securing the future for its next generation.
Its career prospects – whether in panda mating or not – will be severely restricted if Scotland votes Yes next week. As an employer of Scots myself, I am hoping that Scotland stays in the union, for the sake of its youth.
It looks likely to be a close call, and so Scotland’s young people next week have a real chance to get out and vote and take charge of their future.
For coverage of the vote, go to www.ft.com/Scotland
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