By Martin Kelly
A London based lobbying group has been ridiculed after claiming that the Scotch whisky industry would be less likely to be successful if Scotland became independent.
Speaking today, John Cridland told the Scotch Whisky Association that it would be “difficult to sustain success by being apart”.
Mr Cridland heads the pro-Union Confederation of British Industry (CBI) which is a business lobbying organisation. The CBI head said independence would put at risk benefits such as an integrated currency, common laws and regulations.
He also claimed that the Union meant Scotch Whisky also benefited from a wide network of international embassies.
Repeating recent claims by the UK Treasury, Mr Cridland said: “What would happen to the currency raises many unanswered questions. I think it would be difficult to sustain success by being apart.
“Would separate embassies work as well, or have the same impact for our commercial diplomacy, for instance, as the work undertaken by the UK Foreign Office?
“Our common laws and regulations make it more efficient to operate across the union, not to mention how they lay a strong foundation for us all to enjoy the benefits of our single market. We would all lose out if it were fragmented.”
However the claims were rubbished by the Scottish National Party which pointed to charges currently levied on the Scotch Whisky Association by UK embassies for promotion.
SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said:
“Given the substantial fees that the Westminster Government charges Scotland for promoting whisky through UK embassies, it is a strange argument for the CBI and the No campaign to deploy.
“The powers of an independent Scotland are absolutely essential if we are to successfully support businesses and make Scotland a wealthier country.
“With the powers Scotland currently has, we are the number one part of the whole UK in attracting jobs from inward investment – with the additional economic powers of independence, we can achieve even more.
“Simon Walker, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, has previously said he is ‘relaxed’ about the possibility of an independent Scotland and the fact of the matter is that the No campaign’s economic credibility is fundamentally undermined by the disastrous track records of Alistair Darling and George Osborne as Chancellor.”
The intervention by the CBI follows a visit one week ago by UK Chancellor George Osborne who claimed that an independent Scotland might not be able to use the pound. However when pressed, the Chancellor refused to rule out a currency union agreement following independence.
Most independent analysts agree that a currency union would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the UK, especially in the immediate aftermath of independence. Labour MP Alistair Darling, who heads the anti-independence Better Together campaign, said that sharing the pound would be “desirable” for the UK following a Yes vote.
Speaking on Newsnight Scotland in January, Mr Darling said: “If you have independence, or separation, of course a currency union is logical.”
Scotch whisky is estimated to contribute around £5bn to the UK Treasury – cash that would be diverted to Scotland following independence. Exports alone bring in over £4.3bn with markets including the USA, South America, Russia and China.
The industry employs around 10,000 people directly in Scotland and indirectly supports 35,000 jobs. It is also predicted that independence would see the Scottish economy benefit by the relocation of lucrative executive jobs from London to Scotland as industry HQs moved closer to the seat of decision making in Edinburgh.