Listen to business voices as Scottish referendum campaign continues

24th February 2014

Commenting as the UK and Scottish governments hold their respective cabinet meetings in Aberdeenshire today (Monday), John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: -When it comes to contentious issues such as the future of the Union, business is not a monolithic constituency.

In the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum in September, it is critical that business voices in all four nations are heard. -So as the UK and Scottish governments set out their respective visions in Aberdeen, we're launching a new series of local business viewpoints starting with a call from Aberdeen itself for greater civic engagement in the independence debate in all parts of the United Kingdom. Bob Collier, Chief Executive of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: -The UK as a whole must wake up and understand that the Scottish independence debate is different in Scotland. South of the border, the debate on Scotland's constitutional future is still not properly understood, either by businesspeople or voters. We should all be concerned and get engaged. -From an Aberdeen business perspective, there are five themes that must be at the heart of public debate ahead of the referendum. Yet all too often, to the detriment of business, the voting public and people across Scotland and the UK, they are glossed over: 1.-It's the economy, stupid. No economy or country can prosper and deliver a better future for its citizens unless it generates wealth. The economy is the number one concern for voters as recorded in a recent BBC survey, but neither campaign has yet convinced the electorate that they can offer a better future which is deliverable. 2. Reality and politics are not the same thing. There is a gap between reality for Scottish people and politicians, and the reality for the people and politicians in the rest of the UK. Scotland is no longer in the place that the two campaigns think they are fighting over. Neither campaign is offering the electorate in Scotland what the opinion polls suggest it wants gradual devolution which may in time lead to further change. 3.Politicians must not be the only people with a voice in a once-every-300-years decision. The political nature of the bi-polar debate presents us in Scotland with two options, whereas in reality there are others available for consideration: the current devolution settlement; less of it; more of it, as much as possible of it, a federal UK and independence being the most obvious. Business would not start from here. Politicians need to give space and airtime to civic organisations, business and popular voices from around the Scotland and the UK to add reality to the politics. 4.'Certainty' is not on the menu. There will be no satisfactory answers to the multiple questions that business and the electorate have about uncertainty between now and September, because those answers are not available to identify and describe. The terms of 'independence' cannot be known until after a positive vote and after a period of negotiation following a 'yes' decision. This is 'independence' with an uncertain prospectus. Independence on trust. The terms of continued devolved union cannot be known until there is a clearer narrative either. This would be a devolved UK with an uncertain prospectus. Devolution on trust. 5.It's not clear whether any campaign promises can be kept, because the debate itself is changing the underlying paradigm. The whole of the UK will be a different place, no matter the outcome. At the very least, devolution will be a settled reality, and the direction of travel will be one-way. Whatever the outcome of the vote, it is unlikely to be conclusive for the losing party. These are the issues that both the Scottish and UK public should be grappling with. They are the issues that preoccupy our strong and vocal business community in Aberdeen. We can only hope they are adequately addressed by politicians and public alike, before a historic decision is taken this September.

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