The only Certainties...
27 November 2011
Recent highly publicised pronouncements from George Osborne, Danny Alexander and various private bodies and individuals such as Citibank, and the head of the CBI in Scotland, Iain McMillan have focussed on the uncertainty over Scottish Independence having negative effects on business investment. A further such comment has been reported by the BBC today from someone called Malcolm Naish.
The Scottish Government's responses have focussed on an impressive list of companies who are investing as a rebuttal of the above, and indeed no-one yet seems to have been able to point to any company not investing due to this issue.
However I believe an important point being obscured by the media is that a referendum about independence is not creating uncertainty where certainty existed before, it's simply adding an uncertain something to an already extremely uncertain future which UK and international businesses are having to cope with.
Lets take 2020 as a feasible date for the big Independence Party, and then assume that in fact the referendum was lost and the UK still exists. What certainty do we have about the United Kingdom in 2020?
Will the UK be part of the European Union? This surely is a massive question for any business wishing to invest in the future, but there is no certainty over the answer. It seems to me there is a growing groundswell of opinion in England that there should be a referendum on EU membership, and a recent UK wide poll by the Guardian says it would result in leaving.
I believe there is much less of a wish to leave the EU here in Scotland, though perhaps the independence debate is masking that up here. Nevertheless, is would be an interesting situation if in a UK wide poll, England voted to leave the EU and the other nations voted to stay.
But to get back on topic, all of the claims made by unionist politicians and business leaders are couched as if to make you believe this is a case of certainty versus uncertainty, whereas they really involve uncertainty versus a slightly different uncertainty.
No-one in Scotland disputes that this is one of the biggest decisions we've ever faced, and so it deserves an honest debate outlining the pros and cons clearly and without spin. I hope all parties can rise to the challenge.