Independence ‘eight times more damaging than Brexit’, unionists say

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Independence would be eight times as costly to the Scottish economy as Brexit, campaigners against a second independence referendum have warned on the fourth anniversary of Scotland’s decision on its constitutional future.

Scottish Business UK, a cross-party campaign set up to represent pro-business Unionist voices, warned that the damage to trade with the rest of the UK would outstrip losses from exiting the European single market under the government’s Brexit plans, and said employers would struggle under the weight of added uncertainty.

Independence supporters gathered in George Square, Glasgow, at the weekend for the Hope Over Fear rally, marking the four-year anniversary of the independence referendum Picture: John Devlin

Independence supporters gathered in George Square, Glasgow, at the weekend for the Hope Over Fear rally, marking the four-year anniversary of the independence referendum Picture: John Devlin

In a report published today entitled ‘Win-Win: the business case for Scotland’s place in the UK’, campaigners claim that Scottish independence would be eight times as costly as the Scottish Government’s worst Brexit forecasts, because Scotland would lose the additional government spending per head under the Barnett Formula.

The report also highlights figures showing trade between Scotland the rest of the UK is worth three times as much to the Scottish economy as trade with the EU. The SNP called the warning “ludicrous”.

Scottish Business UK founder Robert Kilgour, an investor and former care home operator, said: “Scottish businesses and the economy has gone through an extended period of uncertainty and that is destabilising our opportunity to grow and crucially to secure inward investment.

“The negative impact of the continuing uncertainty is a message I hear regularly from investors who turn to other countries or regions in England, to give their investments a more stable base from which to grow.”

The negative impact of the continuing uncertainty is a message I hear regularly from investors who turn to other countries

ROBERT KILGOUR

Former Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, the campaign group’s chief executive, added: “We are four years from the last referendum on independence for Scotland which was not supported, yet the spectre of a further referendum remains ever present.

“We’re calling on the Scottish Government to abandon the demand for another referendum and focus more on reigniting the Scottish economy, so we once again become a credible investment opportunity, on a par with other parts of the UK.”

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said: “This is yet more evidence of how damaging independence would be to our economy. As the SNP itself admitted in its cuts commission, independence would mean decades of austerity, tax rises and massive reductions in public spending.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop putting nationalism before the NHS, schools and jobs. She should drop her plans for an unwanted second independence referendum and instead try and start fixing the mess she has made of the economy and our schools and hospitals.”

An SNP spokesperson described the claims as “ludicrously over the top”.

“They show just how rattled the Tories are – they know support for independence has never been so consistently high or sustained, and that Brexit may well be the point of no return,” the spokesperson said.

“Leaving the EU and a single market eight times bigger than the UK’s alone threatens to be disastrous for Scotland – and the shambolic no-deal outcome the Tories are now preparing for would be utterly catastrophic.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s minister in charge of Brexit negotiations has warned of the growing risk the UK will be forced into a “chaotic, blind Brexit”.

Constitution Secretary Mike Russell accused Theresa May of “misleading” voters on the prospects for her Chequers plan, claiming EU leaders have already dismissed the UK government’s proposals.

And he claimed politicians south of the Border had failed to meet their pledge that Scotland would be an “equal partner” if it stayed in the Union.

Mr Russell said the Prime Minister must use a summit of EU leaders in Salzburg this week to “rule out both a ‘blind’ and a No-deal Brexit”.

Speaking ahead of an address to business leaders and academics in Edinburgh, Mr Russell said: “Four years ago today, the people of Scotland voted on our nation’s future and were then told we were to be treated as equal partners in the UK – absolutely nothing that has happened since has lived up to that pledge, with Brexit making it clearer by the day that Westminster is incapable of working in Scotland’s national interests.”