George Osborne urged to apologise after report demolishes ‘damaging uncertainty’ claims


  By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has today called on UK Chancellor George Osborne to apologise after an official report into inward investment showed it increased in Scotland at a higher rate than the rest of the UK.
The report, by UK Trade & Investment, showed that the number of foreign direct investment projects rose by 16% in Scotland, which was higher than the UK which managed 11%.

The figures undermine claims made by many politicians from Unionist parties who have said the debate over Scottish independence was harming such investment.

Speaking to the BBC in 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’.”

Mr Osborne’s claims were repeated by several other high profile pro-Union politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron who added in January 2012:

“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’?”

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has now called on the Chancellor to apologise for his remarks, which the MSP described as being part of ‘Project Fear’.

Welcoming the publication of UK Trade & Investment’s Inward Investment Annual Report Mr Gibson said:

“This is fantastic news for Scotland and shows that our ability to attract inward investment continues to go from strength to strength.  This confirms those reports about Scotland’s inward investment, which Ernst & Young recently described as ‘sparkling’.

“And yet senior politicians from the No campaign parties – including the Chancellor – have asserted, without a shred of evidence, that inward investment is being deterred.  It is clear that the opposite is the case. It’s time for George Osborne to apologise for his part in Project Fear.

“The reality is that we are actually hearing very real warnings about the UK Government’s proposals to rip Scotland out of the EU and the single market of half a billion people – only this week the Japanese Government warned that jobs would be lost, as the UK would no longer be seen as a gateway to the European market.

“No one can trust 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.”

Other Unionist politicians to claim inward investment to Scotland was being damaged by the referendum included Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, who last year said: “With too long a period, we will just increase the uncertainty about Scotland’s future, which will affect jobs, it will affect investment plans.”

The Lib Dem MP’s claims were repeated by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson who said the “… continuing constitutional uncertainty is damaging business in Scotland.”

Inward investment has risen steadily since the SNP came to power in 2007.  In 2008-09 78 projects in Scotland included foreign investment, in 2011-12 the total was 96 and last year the figure reached 111.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said: “Today’s figures show how compelling a case the UK continues to make for investment on the international stage.  Our single market, skills and opportunities are second to none and are seen positively by investors around the world.

“The news that Scotland has been able to increase its direct investment by 16% is very welcome and shows the attractiveness of being part of the UK which uses the same currency and has the same regulatory regime in place across the whole country.”

However Mr Mundell also previously claimed uncertainty was harming such investment.

In 2012 during an exchange in the House of Commons, the Tory junior minister was asked by colleague Alun Cairns: “Does my hon.  Friend accept that, in an ever more competitive world, uncertainty about independence has not helped the cause of Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom that is seeking to attract much-needed inward investment?”

Mr Mundell replied: “I entirely agree with my hon.  Friend, which is why I believe it is better that a referendum on Scottish independence be held sooner rather than later.”

Last month the Ernst & Young Attractiveness Survey described Scotland’s inward investment performance as “sparkling”, with Scotland attracting the highest number of overseas investment projects in 15 years.