Independence is the key to unlocking Scottish business potential

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By Kenneth Anderson

Scotland still has vast business and economic potential, that remains untapped.  Despite the negativity of the No campaign there is no doubt we are fortunate to live in a country amongst the wealthiest on the planet. 

This wealth derives not just from oil and gas, but from a diverse range of sectors including renewables, tourism, food and drink, engineering, our Universities, life sciences and financial services such as asset management and insurance.

By Kenneth Anderson

Scotland still has vast business and economic potential, that remains untapped.  Despite the negativity of the No campaign there is no doubt we are fortunate to live in a country amongst the wealthiest on the planet. 

This wealth derives not just from oil and gas, but from a diverse range of sectors including renewables, tourism, food and drink, engineering, our Universities, life sciences and financial services such as asset management and insurance.

But we face challenges too.  Over the past 50 years our average annual growth rate has been well below those of other similar sized European nations.  Our business start-up rate should be higher and while our Universities are doing world class research, levels of commercial research and development compare poorly to our competitors whilst the opportunities for our young people are stifled.

By voting YES in this referendum we can make the most of our potential.

The unending scare stories from the No camp are continuous and designed to raise doubts, however, expert analysis time and again shows these to be rubbish. The No Campaign has nothing to offer – no solutions, no vision and certainly no passion.  Current Westminster policy is stifling growth and harming recovery.

It is abundantly clear that an economic policy developed in London is never going to suit Scotland’s economic needs and circumstances.

In contrast, Scotland gaining the full range of economic levers delivers answers to these challenges – powers that will be used in Scotland, to Scotland’s economic advantage.

With our share of savings from expensive and wasteful UK policies, an independent Scotland could support key sectors with a VAT cut, invigorate research and development with new incentives and reform intellectual property law.  We could attract new visitors by abolishing air passenger duty. With our own representation and profile abroad we would be better placed to develop Scotland’s immense brand and reputation in the international community. We can build an oil fund over the next 50 years so future generations can benefit and help protect us from economic shocks.

A Scottish sovereign oil fund could also grow and assist with the development of a renewables industry here in the North East of Scotland. According to the BBC the exports of oil and gas offshore technology to America, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia is worth a staggering £17.2 billion per annum to Scotland. Putting aside just some of that revenue a Scottish oil fund could be a catalyst for expertise in the North of Scotland to be further developed providing many highly skilled, highly paid jobs for decades.

Energy and renewables are particularly important to the North East of Scotland and a stable energy policy with an Energy Department that understands the industry is critical. UK energy policy has been inconsistent for decades as is witnessed by the changes in personnel at the Dept of Energy in Whitehall with energy ministers departing and arriving in post as if through a revolving door.

Successive Chancellors from both main UK parties have made monumental errors of judgement in relation to energy policy and taxation, as well as making decisions to walk away from gas gathering infrastructure in the 80’s and more recently carbon capture. As well as ensuring the continued development of oil and gas in Scottish waters, a renewed focus can continue the export of our expertise in offshore oil and gas extraction across the globe with Aberdeen, the North East and now Easter Ross staking a strong claim as centres of excellence for all energy activities.

Here in the North East agriculture, food and fisheries have been part of our DNA for centuries and we produce some of the highest quality output in the world with export markets across the globe; with a true understanding of this industry and a well thought through strategy, along with improved transport link, this could herald a new era of expansion, diversification and reduced costs to provide  the established companies based in this area and new companies with superb opportunities.

All this without mention of the whisky industry, more than £5.5 billion of exports and with growing markets in China and South America as well as established markets in France, the USA and of course RUK!

On the back of this our tourism from the mountains to the sea with castles and golf courses to numerous to list has scope for development and expansion, if access by road, rail air and sea can be improved

Government can make a huge difference; limited powers and a steady hand in the shape of the Rural Affairs Secretary has already made a difference but more can be done, with full control and unfettered negotiation at critical EU meetings being just a small example of how independence could help the business community. Our higher profile internationally after independence will undoubtedly assist, in particular iconic industries such as whisky, shortbread, salmon and tourism but will also put a saltire or a touch of tartan in the face of every foreign purchaser or buyer of all our products.

We can see very clearly what North East Representation makes to business decisions with key people in the streamlined Scottish Cabinet and in the smaller but more effective Scottish Parliament. With independence the relationship between local representation and the Government can be made far more effective

Other small European nations show what can be achieved in terms of growth and wealth per head of population. Countries such as Norway and Switzerland are leading the way. On the United Nations’ Human Development Index, 11 of the top 20 nations have fewer than ten million inhabitants. Norway is number one, while the UK is number 28.

The only thing they have which we still lack? Independence. We can grasp the opportunity in 2014 to build a more prosperous future for the current population and for future generations.

This article was first published on Business for Scotland and is republished here with kind permission.