State of the Debate: Business Roundup

The economic outlook has been a central part of the referendum the debate, and currency, business prospects, and job creation all remain subjects of focus.

Today on the blog, David Bell discusses the employment sector in Scotland. He notes that since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, jobs growth in Scotland has been good by international standards but that employment hasn’t grown faster in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.

That’s just the latest of David’s work as part of the Future of the UK and Scotland teams. He’s previously published research in conjunction with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce on business attitudes to currency options, the opportunities and risks of independence, Scotland’s relationship with Europe and taxation. A blog on Scottish Fiscal and Economic Studies sums up their findings.

Business people themselves have been contributing to the debate.  Two major Scottish newspapers recently published letters from those advocating a no vote (published in the Scotsman) and those campaigning for a yes vote (published in the Herald).

But Future of the UK and Scotland research co-ordinator Charlie Jeffery writes that ‘While some business people… are happy to come out in support of one side or other, most are not’. He attributes this to natural caution within the business community, as they are ‘reluctant to say things that get them sucked into - and used by - political campaigns’, In other words, Charlie concludes ‘they do business, not politics’.

Brad MacKay, who has conducted extensive research on the views of the business community, also reflects on the letters and the types of business behind them. He notes that ‘The first letter points to a number of key unresolved uncertainties that may affect some company’s ability to trade. The second letter points largely to a number of aspirations of what, all things being equal, could happen, particularly with government support, in the future’.

 According to Brad, the first letter has garnered signatures from larger companies, those who reflect Scotland’s competitive core. In contrast, the letter in support of a yes vote, finds its support with the owners of smaller enterprises.

Brad’s research includes work with the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, examining the perspectives of small business owners, and more detailed interviews with company owners in the food and drink industry, defence, financial services, and oil and gas. Brad’s full report is available here

For those interested in a round-up on business perspectives, please see our business guide to the debate.

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Coree Brown Swan's picture
University of Edinburgh
8th September 2014
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