By a Newsnet reporter
The director of a well known Scottish travel company has caused controversy after circulating a memo amongst his staff which contains a bizarre rant against independence.
Bill Munro, who is the founder of Barrhead Travel, sent the memo to employees of the company claiming it was in response to questions he had been asked about the Scottish independence referendum.
In the circular, Munro said independence would be “a complete disaster” and claimed the country would be thrown out of the EU and unable to trade with England.
Citing a study that he says goes “straight to the heart of the truth”, Munro insisted a Yes vote would mean Scotland requiring its own currency. The businessman also claimed an independent Scotland would not be able to acquire a credit rating from Standard & Poor’s on day one which would lead to “damagingly high interest payments”.
In the bizarre memo, Munro also told his staff that; “Scotland would need to accept a 5/63rd share of the UK national debt as a price of being released from its currency position of joint and several liability for all £1,185bn of it.”
On its website the company boasts: “Barrhead Travel has never stood still, and in the years ahead we’ll continue to evolve and to provide the lowest prices, top-notch service and the best value for our customers.”
Commenting, Gordon MacIntyre Kemp said: “The idea that in the event of a Yes vote, for example, there would be restrictions on trade, as outlined in the memo, doesn’t make any sense. Day in, day out there is free trading taking place between independent countries.
He added: “Business for Scotland would be happy to outline the overwhelming case for independence to Bill Munro and let him see why we believe it is the business opportunity of a lifetime.”
The memo has created a social media storm with pro-independence users reacting with a mixture of outrage and ridicule.
Writing on his blog, leading Yes Scotland figure Stephen Noon dismissed many of Munro’s claims calling them “embarrassing”.
Noon went on to debunk six of the businessman’s arguments, writing:
1. He says his business wouldn’t be able to trade outside an independent Scotland for 3 years: this has absolutely no basis in reality – trading takes place between independent countries every day of the year, Scotland would be no different. Ireland (in the EU) and Norway (outside the EU) all trade with England, so too would Scotland.
2. He says Scotland would be ‘outwith the EU’ but as Charlie Jeffery, Professor at Edinburgh University says “the conclusion of almost all independent expert analysis is that Scottish EU membership would be uninterrupted”.
3. He says Scotland would have to have its own currency, but Scotland already has a currency, the £ sterling and this would continue after a Yes. As a UK Government minister told the Guardian last week, “of course there would be a currency union”. As the government minister continued, “saying no to a currency union is obviously a vital part of the no campaign. But everything would change in the negotiations if there were a yes vote”
4. He says Scotland has ‘joint and several liability” for the UK’s national debt, however, this has been explicitly denied by the UK government which announced to the markets earlier this year that it would retain legal responsibility for all UK debt. As the Scottish Government set out in its White Paper, Scotland would meet its fair share on the basis that assets and liabilities go together – a cost that is already factored in to Scotland’s national accounts estimates.
5. He says Scotland would immediately have to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) on the path to joining the Euro, but EU law makes it 100% explicit that joining ERM is a totally voluntary decision. His claim is contrary to the legal position set out in the treaties and secondary legislation.
6. He says the ERM requirement would result in spending cuts in Scotland, but as the EU law position already stated makes clear, this claim has no basis in fact.
Referring to a recent analysis by leading credit agency cited by Munro, Mr Noon added: “Mr Munro clearly also missed the analysis by leading credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, in which they made clear: ‘Even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment’.
“Mr Munro has previously told the Daily Record that he ‘would rather be referred to personally as a good solid businessman who is Conservative with a capital C…’. Perhaps he should have Checked his facts, also with a capital C.”
Despite the errors contained in the memo, Better Together member, Labour MP Jim Murphy said: “Barrhead Travel is yet another example of an employer in Scotland saying that being part of the UK is better for their business. Having access to a single UK market of 63 million people, rather than five million, means Scotland’s firms have more opportunities to thrive and employ more people. Where is the sense in putting a barrier between Scottish businesses and their customers elsewhere in the UK?
“Businesses still aren’t being told what would replace the pound and how we would get back into the EU or on what terms. Asking Scotland’s employers to hope that it will be alright on the night isn’t good enough.
“Being part of the UK means we can have the best of both worlds – a strong Scottish Parliament, with the guarantee of more powers, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. Independence puts that at risk.
“Barrhead Travel is a real Scottish success story to be proud of. The nationalists’ response to the company saying they want to stay part of the UK is a new low. This is the worst type of negative politics from Yes campaigners.”