Alistair Carmichael tells banks to speak up

Alistair Carmichael drops in on city social enterprise the Engine Shed. Picture:  Neil Hanna
Alistair Carmichael drops in on city social enterprise the Engine Shed. Picture: Neil Hanna
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FINANCIAL giants based in the Capital have been urged to speak out against independence by the new Scottish ­Secretary.

Alistair Carmichael said the sector, which makes up a huge chunk of the Capital’s economy, should spell out why Scotland should stay in the UK – and he warned that they should not leave it too late.

In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, just days after taking up his new post, Mr Carmichael said: “This debate has to broaden itself out beyond the politicians and the political classes.

“Rather than me tell the financial services industry what is good for them, I want to hear them telling the people of Scotland the benefits they get being part of the UK and what it would mean to lose these ­benefits.

“I want to hear them say more about it for themselves.”

Many business leaders are said to be reluctant to get involved in the independence debate because of the potential abuse they might receive or repercussions they could ­experience.

Mr Carmichael said: “I can understand their reticence. The debate is not always a happy experience for people who intervene in it.

“But I also suspect it’s just the fact this is just an incredibly long-drawn-out affair.

“They may feel there is time to do it – they may be right – but that time will run out eventually. I would say get on with it.”

Mr Carmichael, who replaced fellow Liberal Democrat Michael Moore in Monday’s UK government cabinet reshuffle, dismissed claims that independence would make Edinburgh a “proper” capital and bring a major jobs boost.

He said: “Edinburgh is a proper capital and has been a growing vibrant community for as long as I can remember – and that will continue as part of the UK.

“Edinburgh can have its status as a capital city while we remain part of the UK and that is what we mean when we say we can have, with the present set-up, the best of both worlds.”

He said he wanted UK ministers to come to Scotland – but not just to lecture.

He said: “I am very keen that nobody in the UK should see Scotland as a no-go area. But when they come to Scotland it must be something more than a lecture tour.”

Official visit

A TOUR of Edinburgh’s much-loved Engine Shed cafe and bakery was Alistair Carmichael’s first official visit since taking over as Scottish Secretary.

He was shown round the project in St Leonard’s, which provides training for young people with learning difficulties and was recently saved from the axe when council chiefs had a change of heart over plans to withdraw a £211,200 annual grant to the social enterprise.

Mr Carmichael said: “I was delighted to visit the Engine Shed. It is a fantastic example of an organisation doing great work at the heart of community and helping people get on in life.”