Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney has challenged George Osborne to explain his claims that international firms are reluctant to invest in Scotland.
Mr Swinney has written a letter to the Chancellor in response to the Tory MP’s claims that international firms had expressed a reluctance to invest in Scotland because of the independence referendum.
Speaking on Sunday’s Politics Show Scotland Mr Osborne said: “…there are major businesses around the world who have asked me as chancellor in the last year ‘tell us what is going on in Scotland – we’re worried about making an investment in that country’ “
However, when pressed, Mr Osborne refused to reveal the names of the firms who had spoken to him. His cabinet colleague David Mundell made similar claims on Monday evening, but also refused to name any companies.
In the letter drafted yesterday Scotland’s Finance Minister said Mr Osborne’s comments “were at variance with the facts”. Mr Swinney also expressed his concern at the inability of Mr Osborne and his colleague to name the companies they claim to have spoken to.
The Tory MPs were joined by Labour MP Willie Bain who said he agreed with the claims. Mr Bain then also claimed to have spoken “in boardrooms” to figures from the financial sector who also claim to have reservations about investing in Scotland.
Bain claimed one firm had actually switched investment from Scotland to England as a result of the forthcoming referendum. However when pressed, he too refused to name the companies involved.
Mr Swinney questioned the accuracy of the claims made by Mr Osborne and pointed to a list of internationally renowned companies who were investing in Scotland at the moment.
Mr Swinney wrote: “Your claim is clearly at variance with Scotland’s track record of success. Many international businesses have announced major investments in Scotland in recent months – Avaloq, Dell, Gamesa, Amazon and Doosan Power Systems, to name just a few.
“These investments are testament to the quality of workforce, skills and infrastructure that we have in Scotland – and with the full financial and economic powers of independence we could achieve even more.”
The SNP’s Finance Minister also highlighted a report compiled by Earnst and Young, and published in May 2011, which showed that for employment creation across the UK in 2010, Scotland was well in front.
Mr Swinney also highlighted a Financial Times report that described England as struggling to attract inward investment and contrasted it against “the success of Scotland”.
Mr Swinney cautioned the Tory Chancellor against lobbying against Scotland on matters of investment saying:
“It would be a matter of grave concern if your negative comments about future investment in Scotland were motivated by lobbying from south of the Border, complaining about Scottish success in securing inward investment – and the comparative advantage Scotland enjoys due in part to our strong economic development agencies and our system of Regional Selective Assistance.”
Unionist assertions about Scottish investment were further undermined after influential Scottish business figures also challenged them.
Scots engineering entrepreneur Jim McColl, said he was “disappointed” to hear Mr Osborne “talking down Scotland as a place to do business and invest in”.
Mr McColl said his company, Clyde Blowers, was in talks with “a couple of big companies who want to invest here and expects to make announcements soon”.
Unionist leaning director of CBI Scotland, Iain McMillan, said Mr McColl “may be out of his depth” on political matters. Mr McMillan also claimed that firms had expressed concerns on the independence referendum, but provided no evidence to back his claims.
Recently the Director General of the Institute of Directors said business was “relaxed” about the prospect of independence.
They were joined by Jeanette Forbes, Managing director of Aberdeen based engineering and offshore services firm PCL Group who said “I certainly don’t think independence will put people off investing in Scotland”.
In a BBC interview Ms Forbes said business is focussed on employment now, getting the banks open for business and that the oil and gas industry is focussed on taxation issues.
Welcoming Ms Forbes comments SNP MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine Maureen Watt said:
“Jeanette Forbes knows her industry and she knows that it is not independence that is worrying the industry but the UK Government’s treatment of the North Sea as nothing more than a cash cow.
“Instead of Tory scaremongering we have businesses in Scotland who are working hard to attract investment, create jobs and boost the economy. They should not be talked down by a Tory government.
“In recent months we have seen international companies putting Scotland first in their investment plans, backing our skills, our technology and the opportunities Scotland presents in industries like renewables and oil and gas.
“The opening of the Amazon facilities in both Fife and Edinburgh is just the start of that investment delivering jobs for people across Scotland.”
Mr Swinney’s letter can be read in full here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/917/0122797.pdf