18% Of Firms Consider Yes Vote Exit

Almost one in five businesses could quit Scotland if there is a Yes vote in the independence referendum, a survey has suggested.

Research for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) found that 8% of firms had definite plans to move away from Scotland if it voted to leave the UK, while a further 10% said they were considering moving away if this was the case. 

Just under half of the 759 businesses surveyed (49%) said they would change their strategy if Scotland became independent, with almost a quarter (24%) stating they had already changed a business decision as a result of the debate about the country's future. 

A total of 38% of firms surveyed said the main risk for their business was the "uncertainty over the issues or the time it will take during the transfer to independence''. 

However, 23% of companies said there were no risks associated with Scotland leaving the UK. 

If Scotland was to become independent, almost two-thirds of firms backed keeping the pound in a currency union with the rest of the UK - the policy favoured by the Scottish Government but already ruled out by the three main parties at Westminster. 

A total of (62%) of firms said this would either be "extremely positive'' or "positive''. 

Meanwhile, 68% of firms said they backed increasing the Scottish Parliament's powers if the result of the referendum was a No vote. 

The survey also found many businesses had a poor opinion of the quality of the referendum debate so far, with 11% describing it as "dismal'' and 45% saying it was "poor''. 

No firms said the debate had been "excellent'' and only 5% said it was "very good''. 

Almost a third (30%) of businesses said the contributions from the UK Government to the debate had been "useless'' while 11% of firms believed this about the Scottish Government's contributions. 

In addition, one in 10 firms branded the Yes campaign's contributions as "useless'', with 18% describing the pro-UK Better Together's additions to the debate in the same way. 

SCC chief executive Liz Cameron urged those campaigning on both sides of the independence debate to "step up their game''. 

She said: "It is clear that businesses are distinctly unimpressed with the quality of the referendum debates so far, with 56% rating them as poor or worse. 

"The various political analyses do not seem to be hitting the mark as far as business is concerned.'' 

She said while 53% of businesses identified opportunities from independence, "this needs to be balanced by over three-quarters (77%) identifying potential risks''. 

Ms Cameron said: "It is clear that businesses are actively preparing for the potential outcomes of the referendum, with almost a quarter of businesses having already changed business decisions as a result of the referendum and almost half saying that their business strategy would change if Scotland became independent. 

"There is, however, a desire for more decisions to be taken by Scots in Scotland, whether or not Scotland becomes independent, with 22% of businesses identifying more Scottish-appropriate policies coming from a Scottish Government as the main business opportunity of independence, whilst 68% would welcome more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote.'' 

While she said most businesses would prefer an independent Scotland to retain the pound in a currency union, she called on the Scottish Government to develop a "detailed contingency plan'' for the issue. 

Ms Cameron said: "We would urge the Scottish Government to consider and develop detailed contingency plans for our currency now as the likelihood of the UK Government agreeing to a post-independence currency union has reduced.'' 

She also called on the Scottish Government to set out the "processes and timelines they will undertake in order to ensure continuity of European Union membership'', at the same time as saying the UK Government must "address the concerns of the 61% of businesses who believe that leaving the EU, whilst remaining in the UK, would have a negative impact on their business''. 

A spokesman for Better Together said: "It is hardly surprising the majority of businesses responding to this survey identified the enormous risks involved with leaving the UK. 

"A Yes vote in September would see us having to reapply for membership of the EU and we would have no idea what conditions would be attached to that application. 

"It would also mean that we would lose the pound as our currency. It is little wonder that businesses are so concerned about it. 

"It simply isn't credible that Alex Salmond thinks that we can go to the polls without knowing what would replace the pound. We need to know what plan B is. 

"We can have the best of both worlds in Scotland. We can have our own parliament with more powers guaranteed and the strength, security and stability of being part of the UK. This survey shows that this is what business wants.'' 

A Scotland Office spokeswoman said the survey showed how a Yes vote could damage Scotland's economic recovery. 

She said: "The economic recovery is becoming firmly embedded in all parts of the UK, with businesses at the heart of this recovery. 

"As this survey highlights, with a number of firms considering whether they have a future in an independent Scotland and three-quarters believing there are potential risks attached, a Yes vote on September 18 could place this recovery in jeopardy.'' 

She added: "It's vital everyone in Scotland has the information they need to make an informed choice in the referendum.. 

"Responding to public demand, we have already produced detailed information to set out the ways in which Scotland benefits as part of the UK. 

"Our programme of analysis papers is nearing conclusion and we are now distilling the information to make it as accessible as possible in the crucial coming months. This will take the form of leaflets, factsheets and a wide-ranging digital campaign.'' 

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Chamber of Commerce survey shows that more than half of businesses recognise that independence will bring new opportunities, with two thirds of businesses agreeing that a currency union with the rest of the UK is the best option when it comes to finances and sharing Scottish Government concerns over the UK removing Scotland from the EU. 

"We are committed to giving voters access to information that will allow them to make an informed decision on September 18. Our series of question and answer sessions taking place across the country are giving people the opportunity to quiz Ministers on independence. These sessions follow on from the success of Scotland's Future - the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint of its kind ever published. 

"We want everyone to have the opportunity to read Scotland's Future, which is why it is free to order. Since its launch in November the guide has been a 'bestseller' with over 100,000 copies ordered, and three additional reprints. A fourth reprint has now been ordered to keep pace with demand.'' 

A Yes Scotland spokesman said: "There are major opportunities to be gained for the business community with a Yes vote as this survey underlines. The real uncertainty for business and for Scotland stems from a No vote. "Business for Scotland is one of the fastest growing pro-independence groups across the wider entire Yes movement with some 1,900 members, and increasing daily. 

"This in itself demonstrates that more and more small and medium seized businesses - which are the backbone of the Scottish economy - appreciate the benefits and opportunities that taking responsibility for managing our own affairs and economy present. 

"Already across the Yes movement there is a wealth of information about how independence will help business in Scotland to flourish, and we shall continue to provide as much quality information as possible between now and the referendum through a range of platforms. 

"By contrast, the No campaign seems unwilling to participate in open debate, highlighted by the fact that they have refused to take part in a major public forum in Glasgow tomorrow.''

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