Business for Scotland is now being regularly asked to represent the opinion of the pro-independence business community by the mainstream media or in organised debates. This is useful for two main reasons:
First, our business spokespeople can offer balance and common sense both of which have been missing from several media outlets so far in the campaign. This time more business people are willing to speak out in favour of constitutional change than against. Many are also concerned that the uncertainty and change they fear comes not with a Yes but with a No vote, including the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union.
Secondly, Business for Scotland now has over one hundred trained ambassadors (from a membership of well over 1,000 business owners) willing to debate – real credible businesspeople, job creators often they have hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees. The number of ambassadors is growing on a weekly basis. They want to speak out on the referendum but we are often held back by the No Campaign’s inability to find anti-independence business people.
The broadcast media outlets have called us to invite a speaker but later cancel because the No Campaign hasn’t been able to find a representative. There has also been many occasions where independent organisations haven’t had a confirmed No Campaign speaker until the night before their event despite weeks of chasing.
I myself have been asked onto BBC News Channel, Newsnight Scotland and Good Morning Scotland but most of our media appearances are accepted by the leading business people that sit on our board such as Tony Banks, Ivan McKee and Les Meikle to name just a few.
The vast majority of our spokespeople have no political party affiliation and so are just speaking as business people who see the significant business and economic opportunities that self governance brings.
Good Morning Scotland
On Saturday, I was invited to debate the latest scare story promoted by the No Campaign and its metropolitan press allies. BBC Radio Scotland’s breakfast show Good Morning Scotland invited me on the show. The No Campaign put up Daniel Johnston, who is an Edinburgh businessman who has recently bought into a small chain of shops founded by his father. Actually I would strongly recommend his shops having been a regular customer of Studio One in when I lived in Edinburgh.
You can listen to the debate on the BBC site but I have put the relevant discussions up on YouTube.
The No Campaign has admitted it is really struggling to field senior business owners to speak for them. They have a handful of the usual suspects, in some cases London Tory donors or old pals of Alistair Darling from his time at the Treasury. But where are the garrisons of business people against independence like there was against devolution in 1997?
UK Government Cabinet Minister Alistair Carmichael MP has resorted to virtually begging any Scottish businesspeople to speak out against independence. And yet where is the major response to his rallying call?
Tory commentator Iain Martin of the Daily Telegraphy and Iain McMillan of the CBI, which doesn’t represent its membership on the constitutional question, desperately suggest this is because business is “scared of Alex Salmond”. With respect to the First Minister, I very much doubt that. Any detective will tell you that the most simple explanation is often the right one. For sure there will be the odd Scottish businessperson to come out against independence but many more have declared their hand in favour – including several of Scotland’s top self-made entrepreneurs.
There is no positive case for voting No, no guarantee of more powers and certainly no detail on how those imagined powers would be used in Scotland following a No vote. All the No campaign offers is fear and worst case scenario (often totally implausible ) scare stories.
The truth is that business people know that “the sky will not fall in” if Scotland votes yes. Serious business people care about their reputations and are not willing to go on TV or radio and back up ridiculous and implausible scare stories such as there will be border controls when the UK government is committed to seamless trade and travel with Ireland, mobile roaming charges when the EU is banning them, and the ridiculous you won’t be able to watch Dr Who claimed just before the 50th anniversary programme was aired in 75 countries.
Business for Scotland is not complacent. We know the UK Government is desperately trying to call in favours. We know there will be some businesspeople who make more interventions in the debate, on both the Yes and No side. However, one thing is clear already – this is not 1997 when 76% of business opposed the devolution that the Scottish people wanted – indeed some polls have shown a majority for independence amongst business owners. This time more business people are willing to speak out in favour of constitutional change than against and those that are opposed many are beginning to realise that the change they fear might be the change associated with a No vote.