Despite Alex Salmond’s rosy assurances, it is still uncertain whether Scotland will be able to continue using sterling, with Westminster ruling it out and Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney stating that a currency union would be ‘incompatible with sovereignty.’ Even if Scotland did manage to retain the British currency, not only would it forfeit the financial support of the Bank of England, but it would still not control its own currency, undermining one of the main aims of independence. Rightly, concerns have been raised that such uncertainty over currency will prompt the flight of businesses, jobs, and capital away from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote.
A Scottish Voice
However, a Scottish government means the needs of Scottish businesses would be taken into account first and foremost, unlike the current system that needs to take into account the rest of the UK. Policies will be better suited to Scottish businesses, which will also have far easier access to the government. Craig Douglas, founder of company Reserve Apartments, states: ‘As a small company I feel our voice would more than easily be heard if we had a smaller, more localised government – we would have access higher up the chain of command.'
It is estimated that it could take years for Scotland to receive EU membership, and that’s assuming it will be even allowed to join (which depends on other countries in Europe, some with worrying separatist movements, not blocking it). Yes campaigners claim Scotland will remain part of the EU, while most legal experts in the UK and Europe believe Scotland would need to apply again for membership. Furthermore, as Alistair Darling points out, ‘the average time it took countries to join the EU in the last 20 years is about eight years. The last thing Scottish firms need is that uncertainty. It would be entirely self-inflicted,’ accusing Salmond of playing ‘roulette’ with the EU.
Findings from the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that 88% of small businesses in Scotland have customers throughout the rest of the UK, and 92% have suppliers there. Independence means Scotland would be wilfully cutting themselves off from easily-accessible UK markets and suppliers by eliminating free trade across the border. Furthermore, severing access to London, one of the world’s major financial epicentres, could have devastating consequences for the financial growth of Scottish businesses and their access to international markets.
As any new company or small business knows, funding is a major issue, and in the event of independence, all funding currently available from the British government and currently available to young businesses will be lost. For example, Tessa Hartmann of fashion PR and communications agency Hartmann Media explains: ‘Remove Scotland from the UK and many of your young designers and fashion companies would become ineligible for much of the crucial support and profile they currently receive from the likes of London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Council.’ With the economic uncertainty that would follow a yes vote, it is hard to see how Scotland will be able to provide anything near the funding currently provided by the UK.
On the other hand, the Yes campaign says independence will offer ‘an opportunity to give small and medium sized businesses the support and incentives they need to grow and develop which, in turn, leads to more jobs and increased productivity.’ How they will offer these opportunities has not yet been explained.