By a Newsnet reporter
A majority of small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Scotland are in favour of independence according to a poll carried out by AXA Business Insurance.
The poll showed that fifty two per cent of SMEs in Scotland felt that a Yes vote in 2014 would be good for business.
The survey also showed Scottish based SMEs were more critical of the UK coalition’s current austerity cuts than their counterparts in England, but were more upbeat about their future.
English SMEs also differed from their Scottish counterparts over support for independence with only one quarter saying they were in favour.
Welcoming the survey, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said:
“This is a welcome report which shows that among the SMEs surveyed in Scotland, a clear majority favour independence. On the day that the UK Government presents its latest ‘Project Fear’ report, this survey indicates that the negative approach of the No campaign is backfiring.”
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp of the pro-independence business group ‘Business for Scotland’ also welcomed the survey, saying it backed his own organisation’s research which he said indicated an even higher level of support for a Yes vote amongst small businesses.
“We believe that the AXA survey, if anything, underestimates the support for independence within Scottish SME’s. Business for Scotland’s own polling has consistently found SME business to be more supportive of independence than the population as a whole.
“This is because people who run their own businesses are used to examining the facts, evaluating their options and making their minds up more quickly. This survey therefore gives the best indication so far of the likely direction of travel of public opinion within Scotland as a whole, when we get closer to the real decision time in September 2014.”
The survey of 500 small to medium sized businesses across the UK was carried out last month. The results coincided with a visit to Scotland by UK coalition Minister Vince Cable who claimed independence would lead to job losses.
Mr Cable said businesses in a newly independent Scotland would face increased costs as a result of more regulation with Scotland having to replicate UK regulatory bodies at extra cost.
He said: “The union works for businesses on both sides of the border. Scotland is famous for its world-class products and enterprising spirit – and the UK’s truly free, integrated and growing market helps Scottish firms exploit these to the full.
“The last thing firms need is a new set of rules and regulations, new costs on exports, a smaller labour market and less reliable support for innovation and knowledge transfer.
“Breaking up Scotland’s most lucrative market would destabilise enterprise and potentially put growth and jobs at risk. My message to the Scottish business community is that we’re stronger and more secure together.”
However the Scottish government described the latest attempt at scaring the Scottish electorate as “codswallop and balderdash” pointing out that the current contribution made by the Scottish taxpayer to the UK system would simply be transferred to any new Scottish system and that a newly independent Scotland would be able to improve on some of the more damaging regulation.
Scottish Minister Fergus Ewing criticised the latest addition to the anti-independence campaign, saying: “There is so much scaremongering going on that people are shutting off.”
Mr Cable was also ridiculed after claiming Scottish citizens would be hit with mobile phone penalties if they used their phones in England, after it emerged the roaming charge system is to be phased out completely across the EU in 2014.
MSP Kenneth Gibson added: “Business men and women on the ground know that deciding economic policies in Scotland means better policies for Scottish business – for example the small business bonus scheme, creating the most competitive business rates environment anywhere in the UK. And with the full powers of independence, Scotland can achieve even more.
“Business growth and investment are at the heart of our policies to secure economic growth. And while the SNP Government will continue to do all it can to help our businesses thrive within Scotland’s current powers, it is only with the full fiscal and economic powers of independence we could do even more to support companies, strengthen our economy and create jobs.
“Scotland is out-performing the rest of the UK when it comes to employment and investment. Our labour market figures are better than those of the UK as a whole, and the Ernst and Young survey on foreign direct investment showed that inward investment projects coming to Scotland at their highest level for 15 years.
“Scotland is open for business – and we can build on our strong foundations and enable our businesses to flourish with a Yes vote next September.”
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