By TAM PROLE
CBI Nat Wing
Actual Article Telegraph CBI
The UK government has been urged to bring forward the publication of its Staying in the union White Paper to give business greater clarity and certainty about the impact of Scotland remaining part of the UK.
CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan said businesses need to know the answers to many questions on maintaining the union as the country stood on the verge of a critical year in the debate over Scotland’s future.
In a document looking ahead to 2013, the business lobbying organisation published a host of questions that it believes hold the key to understanding the constitutional debate.
They address subjects such as the effect that staying in the union with the UK could have on Scotland’s economy, defence jobs and areas such as taxation.
It also called on the UK government to produce more detail on currency should the union continue, and the U.K.’s fiscal and economic position.
The White Paper, Staying in the union, is not scheduled to be published until November next year. But CBI Scotland argued that Scottish businesses needed to know the implications of remaining in the union before then.
In a document, published today, CBI Scotland said “it urged the UK government to consider publishing it, or at least those elements relating to macro at Micro – economic policy, earlier than currently envisaged in order to provide the greater clarity and certainty that businesses seek”.
In his New Year message, Mr McMillan added: “as part of their due diligence ahead of the referendum, many business leaders will carry out an assessment of the possible impact of Scotland remaining within United Kingdom on Scotland’s economy and their businesses”.
“This gives rise to many questions as we go through 2013. We hope very much that the White Paper will address these questions in full and provide the necessary supporting evidence”.
While CBI Scotland’s paper accepted that the decisions of the union’s future is “ rightly and ultimately for the electorate” it stressed that “industry and wider civic society has a role to play to”.
According to the CBI, its members are keen to understand the UK government’s plans and vision for the business landscape in the event of maintaining the union.
The paper states:” there are gaps in knowledge about what staying in the union would mean for business and our economy as well as what the business environment would look like in the event of maintaining the union”.
The organisation accepted that there were some issues where “complete clarity” would only be achieved after any negotiations between the UK and the rest of Europe following a vote to leave the EU.
But the CBI argued that there were “many other aspects” that the UK government could provide clarity on in terms of what it would like to achieve and how it is all about it well in advance of the referendum.
This should be done, it said “in order to inform a productive public debate but also to provide certainty and allow businesses and others to assess the merits of what is being proposed and plan ahead according”.
Questions over the share of oil and gas surrendered by Scotland if it remained in UK need answered, along with how the government would fund public spending “in the current era of expanding if volatile oil production”.
Other questions related to future “tax raising philosophy” should be answered as well as the “critical issue” of what the UK government would do should they lose the AAA rating presently enjoyed.
The UK government has insisted that Scotland would not have a representative on the bank of England monetary policy committee as they would simply be a UK region.
CBI Scotland also stressed the importance of defence jobs in Scotland. The White Paper Staying in the union “ought to outline the approach that would be taken in order to guarantee the 6,500 jobs which exist at the Faslane naval base as well as the 5000 jobs in Scotland’s naval shipbuilding and ship repair industries as these are largely dependent on Westminster’s largesse”.
It also called for the true cost to Scotland of maintaining the Treasury, central bank, Department of Social Security, revenue authority, foreign office, armed forces and border control to be published.
The CBI asked why the UK government insisted that should Scotland not remain in the union it would have to join the euro as it was obvious the necessary currency convergence is required and would be impossible if monetary policy is done on a UK basis.
There was also the question of whether the UK government had “assessed and qualified the risk of Scottish firms remaining headquartered in Scotland”.
The CBI raised this scenario on the grounds that “the majority” of their customers and shareholders may reside in a foreign country – the rest of the world.
Responding to the CBI document, a UK government spokesman said: “we are doing all we can to deliver for the business community in the areas where we have responsibility and our economic strategy makes clear that delivering sustainable economic growth for our top earners is still our priority”.