Scottish independence: Business leaders claim case for independence has ‘not been made’

Over 130 business leaders sign open letter claiming the Yes vote would be ‘bad for business’

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The Independent Online

One day after First Minister Alex Salmond claimed victory in the second TV debate on Scottish independence, more than 130 business leaders have signed an open letter stating that the ‘Yes’ vote would be “bad for business”.

The 133 signatories, who hail from a range of industries including banking, mining, food, and engineering, claim in the letter published on Wednesday that the “business case for Scottish independence has not been made”.

It follows results from polls on Tuesday suggesting Mr Salmond had won Monday night's TV debate against Alistair Darling and his argument for the 'Better Together' campaign.

The letter, published in The Scotsman, claims that the economic ties inside the UK are “very close” and support nearly a million Scottish jobs.

HSBC’s group chairman Douglas Flint is joined by chief executive of mining giant BHP Billiton’s Andrew Mackenzie in making the case against independence, alongside Audrey Baxter, executive chairman of Baxters Food Group, and Ian Curle, chief executive of Edrington, the owner of Scottish whiskey brands The Macallan and The Famous Grouse.

The signatories said that in their role as job creators, they have looked carefully at the arguments for both sides of the debate.

Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for Scottish exports around the world, they argue, and “uncertainty is bad for business”.

“We should be proud that Scotland is a great place to build businesses and create jobs – success that has been achieved as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom gives business the strong platform we must have to invest in jobs and industry. By all continuing to work together, we can keep Scotland flourishing,” the letter reads.

The letter was organised by Keith Cochrane, the chief executive of engineering firm Weir Group, and the companies of the 133 signatories employ around 50,000 people.

But lobby group Business for Scotland ha told the BBC that economic “facts and figures” support Scottish independence, while other business leaders have backed the First Minister’s push for independence over the advantages it would afford businesses.

Donald MacKay, the former head of Scottish Enterprise, has said that independence would place Scotland in a better fiscal position than the rest of the UK.

"An independent Scotland should use that financial advantage to invest in re-engineering our economy towards industrial, manufacturing and tradeable services development," he said.

His support for the ‘Yes’ vote is backed by other business leaders including International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh and Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, in part due to Mr Salmond’s plans to scrap air passenger duty (APD), which both airline chiefs have long called for.