Firms face political pressure on Scotland independence debate


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The Independent Online

Major employers that work in both England and Scotland are being “reverse lobbied” by politicians to reveal their position on independence, according to a senior director at aerospace defence giant Eurocopter.

The civil and military helicopter manufacturer has significant sites in Oxford and Aberdeen.

MPs and MSPs from the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps have been pressing the group, which is owned by Airbus-maker EADS, to voice support for their conflicting ambitions ahead of next September’s vote.

Tim MacMahon, director of government and public affairs at Eurocopter UK, said: “We’re in the odd position of companies being reversed lobbied. This comes up in the course of general dialogue [with politicians].”

Earlier this month, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg urged Scottish business bosses to speak out against independence. CBI president Sir Mike Rake has warned that independence would be costly and prove to be an “economic distraction”.

It would be a major coup for either those in favour of Scotland going it alone or those who want to remain part of the union if a major defence company like Eurocopter backed the economic rationale behind their arguments. This is because of the economic importance of an industry that employs around 400,000 in the UK and exports total £11.5bn.

Defence has also been one of the tricky areas that would have to be untangled should the ‘Yes’ vote win. For example, BAE Systems might have to move its work on Navy ships in Govan and Scotstoun south of the border.

Last week the British Chamber of Commerce released a survey that showed 90 per cent of UK businesses found that the referendum debate had little or no impact on their work.