Referendum brings positive international spotlight on Scotland


By a Newsnet reporter

Scotland’s debate on independence is not harming its image internationally according to a leading banking executive.

Philip Grant, chair of the Scottish executive committee at Lloyds Banking Group, has said that the referendum is having a positive effect and that countries are more interested in Scotland than ever before because of the debate.

Speaking at a discussion on economic growth this week, Mr Grant told the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee “there is maybe some advantage” in the independence debate and “there are parts of the world where people are getting interested in Scotland again”.

He told the committee that he “looked forward” into the future and had the same concerns for his children as every person living in Scotland who wished for “real opportunity for them in a prosperous and thriving Scotland.”

Mr Grant insisted he was an optimist and saw “an opportunity in every difficulty and challenge.” and added: “Scotland has great strengths, great national opportunities and great talent and strength in its universities sector.

“For people to be more aware of the brand of Scotland and the capability that we have, and the opportunities, I think, is no bad thing in a global market.

“The definition as a region, or nation, or country, or economy, is in many ways, for businesses and for people looking for jobs, irrelevant. It’s about ‘is there investment here?’ and ‘are markets opening up for us?'”

The banking executive’s comments coincided with an article in the Wall Steet Journal that described claims that Scotland relied on subsidies from the rest of the UK as a “myth”.

The article, published by the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch website, added more weight to the case for Scottish independence, said the SNP, and discredited many of the claims from the anti-independence parties.

According to Market Watch: “There is now little dispute that Scotland on its own can be a viable economy.” it continues: “The claim that a penurious Scotland is a subsidy junkie has already been proved a myth.”

Welcoming the reports, Linda Fabiani, SNP MSP and Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee, said:

“More and more informed opinions across the world recognise that Scotland can stand on its own two feet – the case for Scotland is strengthening all the time.

“Scotland is country rich in natural resources, big on skills, attractive to foreign investors and a world leader in renewable energy.

“As the Wall Street Journal points out, it is objectively the case that Scotland pays more in taxes to the UK Treasury than it receives in expenditure.

“The longer that the anti-independence parties continue to talk Scotland down, the further they will alienate themselves from the people of Scotland.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum ends midnight today [Friday].  Around 20,000 submissions are expected to have been made by people keen to give their views.  The consultation asks people to give their opinions on votes for 16 year olds, the proposed referendum question and whether there should be a devo-max option on the ballot paper.

The success of the consultation has led to Unionist claims that it is an attempt at rigging the referendum with some people initially being allowed to submit more than once.  However it emerged that the UK consultation which attracted less than one sixth the submissions of its Scottish counterpart had allowed a similar number of multiple submissions, it also emerged that many of the submissions came from a Labour party website.

Read the WSJ Market Watch articles here:

• The latest GERS figures, published at the beginning of March, found that every man, woman and child in Scotland would have been £510 better off last year if Scotland had been an independent country.
• In cash terms in 2010/11, the relative difference in Scotland and the UK’s fiscal positions was equivalent to £2.7bn. This is equivalent to £510 for every man, woman and child in Scotland.
• Scotland continues to be in a stronger budget position than the UK as a whole, contributing 9.6% of UK and public sector revenue while receiving 9.3% of total UK public sector expenditure, including a per capita share of UK debt interest payments. Scotland’s population is 8.4% of the UK total.
• The GERS publication shows that North Sea Oil revenue makes up 15% of Scotland’s total tax take.  In Norway, the figure in 2011 was 29% (source: US State Dept
• In December, the Social Attitudes Survey found that 65% of those questioned would support independence on the basis that they would be £500 better off with a higher standard of living.
• 60% of respondents said they felt that independence would make Scotland’s economy the same or better.