By Martin Kelly
Better Together head Alistair Darling has been called on to issue an apology over repeated scares issued by the No campaign after it emerged the independence referendum has not affected inward investment to Scotland.
The call from the SNP follows publication of a survey by Ernst & Young which showed foreign investment increased by almost fifty per cent last year bringing it to its highest level for fifteen years.
The survey found that in relation to the possibility of independence there is “no sign of investors being deterred from coming to Scotland; if anything, the reverse appears to be true.”
Ernst & Young also reported that Scotland is now ranked number one for inward investment projects outside London, up from number two in last year’s report.
The news was welcomed by the Convener of the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson who described the economic results as “exceptional”.
Mr Gibson said:
“This is an exceptional performance – and all credit is due to Scottish Development International, the Scottish Government, and everyone who has worked hard to give Scotland a sustained and leading role in securing inward investment in an extremely tough global environment.
“Thanks to this excellent work, we have a 15-year high in inward investment projects, and extraordinary progress even on last year’s impressive figures.
“And yet throughout this entire period we have had senior politicians from the No campaign parties asserting, without a shred of evidence, that inward investment is being deterred.
“We now have the evidence and the reality – to quote from this report there is ‘no sign of investors being deterred from coming to Scotland; if anything, the reverse appears to be true.’”
The news is embarrassing for senior figures in the No campaign – including UK Chancellor George Osborne – who have consistently asserted that the referendum and prospect of an independent Scotland are deterring inward investment in Scotland.
The nationalist MSP challenged Labour MP Alistair Darling, who is the Chairman of the No campaign, to apologise for the repeated scaremongering and pledge never to repeat such baseless claims during the rest of the campaign.
Speaking to the BBC on 13 November 2011, UK Chancellor George Osborne said:
“I think the instability and the uncertainty that hangs over the Scottish economy (is) because of Alex Salmond raising the prospects of independence…
“I think that uncertainty is damaging investment in Scotland – and there are major businesses around the world who have asked me as chancellor in the last year ‘tell us what is going on in Scotland – we’re worried about making an investment in that country’.”
On 9th January 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “If Alex Salmond wants a referendum on independence, why do we wait until 2014? This is very damaging for Scotland because all the time businesses are asking ‘Is Scotland going to stay part of the UK? Are they going to stay together? Should I invest’?”
On 25th January 2012, Secretary of State Michael Moore repeated the claims, saying: “With too long a period, we will just increase the uncertainty about Scotland’s future, which will affect jobs, it will affect investment plans.”
Speaking on 16th January, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: “… continuing constitutional uncertainty is damaging business in Scotland.”
One month later, her Scottish Labour counterpart Johann Lamont said: “…the growing uncertainty the delay over the referendum is creating.”
Highlighting the claims from Unionist politicians, Mr Gibson added: “We clearly can’t believe a word the No campaign says about inward investment – which will lead many more people in Scotland to conclude that we can’t believe a word they say about anything.
“My challenge to Alistair Darling as Chairman of the No campaign is simple and direct – apologise for the scaremongering, which has now been shown to be demonstrably untrue, and pledge never to let it be repeated by anyone on behalf of the No campaign.”
The Ernst and Young report mirrors a report from the Scottish Council Development and Industry on May 28th, in which it said in relation to independence: “It was difficult to discern tangible evidence that the debate itself was causing investment to be halted or deferred.”
Tonight [Wednesday] Mr Darling will join Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander and Conervative Peer Lord Strathclyde to launch the London branch of Better Together.
George Kerevan and Bill Jamieson discuss the Ernst and Young survey