Osborne rebuffed as leading Scots businessman backs Yes vote

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  By Bob Duncan

Scottish entrepreneur Jim McColl’s ‘game-changing’ announcement – that he is to back a Yes vote in Scotland’s referendum on independence – has been warmly welcomed by the SNP who have contrasted it with the “relentless negativity” of Chancellor George Osborne.

Mr McColl, one of Scotland’s most successful entrepreneurs and a member of the Scottish government’s Council of Economic Advisers, has previously called for greater fiscal control to be devolved to Scotland, but this is the first time he has expressed support for full independence.

Mr McColl said on Friday:

“I have argued that full fiscal autonomy should be offered to Scots in a referendum. However, no such option is gaining enough support to be realised in time to make the difference we all want to see for this and future generations.

“It appears that only independence as defined by the Scottish government, an independent nation within this social union and common market of the UK, will allow England and Scotland to pursue distinct economic policies in the face of different demands and competitive pressures.”

Welcoming efforts of the Scottish Government to stimulate growth, Mr McColl added:

“They are constrained in their ability to influence events by two major factors. First, the lack of economic powers at their disposal. Secondly, by a UK Government policy which fails to recognise the importance of the construction industry and real upfront public investment.”

Mr McColl’s remarks stand in stark contrast to the latest scaremongering from Tory Chancellor George Osborne yesterday who – on being questioned by Bernard Ponsonby on STV’s Scotland Tonight show – was unable to name one Chief Executive who has said they will not invest in Scotland due to the prospect of independence.

In a speech to the CBI Scotland on Thursday, Osborne said he rejected arguments that the Union no longer serves Scotland’s economic interests or that its supporters are “wallowing in nostalgia”, arguing that: “Scotland walks taller and shouts louder as part of the United Kingdom.”

As well being Chancellor, Mr Osborne chairs a cabinet subcommittee, the Quad, which coordinates the UK Government’s efforts to keep Scotland from becoming independent.

The Chancellor also used his address at the CBI Scotland annual dinner to deliver a stubborn defence of the Coalition’s economic policies, claiming they are “delivering results” despite the UK entering a double-dip recession.

Jim McColl said that Osborne’s policies were damaging Scotland, and that the Scottish Government’s drive to pull the country out of recession is being held back by a lack of economic powers and by the flawed policies of the UK Government, particularly their refusal to fund infrastructure projects.

First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed Mr McColl’s support for independence, saying:

“Jim McColl is one of Scotland’s most successful business figures and job creators, and his opinions are widely respected across the country.

“This is a hugely significant intervention in the debate on Scotland’s future and I welcome his comments, which will only help to persuade more people of the need for an independent Scotland with the economic tools we need to create jobs and prosperity.”

Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride where Mr McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital firm is headquartered, said that Mr McColl’s expert outlook stood in stark contrast to Mr Osborne’s ‘scaremongering’ comments in Scotland yesterday.

“This is a game-changing development in the independence debate from Jim McColl, who is one of Scotland’s greatest self-made success stories.

“Mr McColl understands independence is the best course of action to move Scotland forward economically – a very different outlook from the flawed and failed politics of austerity Chancellor Osborne wants to continue imposing on the people of Scotland,” she said, adding:

“With members of the Institute of Directors saying not one single policy by George Osborne was working, the Chancellor should be sitting up and taking notice of Mr McColl’s expert opinion, he clearly has a better grasp of Scotland’s economic needs. If Mr Osborne wants to retain a shred of credibility then he must ditch his relentless negativity and unsupported scaremongering and deliver money for the shovel-ready projects immediately.

“People in Scotland will not take long in making up their minds who they think has more economic credibility when it comes to one of Scotland’s leading job creators compared to one of Scotland’s leading job destroyers.”