Would Scottish independence put jobs at risk?

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Aye or Naw? Should Scotland political union with UK come to an end after more than 300 years? The referendum which is due to take place next September will let 4 million Scottish voters decide for their future.

The ‘yes’ option is supported by official campaign Yes Scotland, whilst the ‘no’ by Better Together. They seem to be converging on the fact that, in spite of the outcome of the referendum, Scotland needs greater control on its finance and policies. However, they maintain very different views on how this objective should be reached.

Pro-independence supporters argue that Scotland is penalised by the current economic model, which they consider too biased towards South East UK, and that independence would strengthen Scottish economy. A key role in this process would be played by the revenue generated by North Sea resources which would be calculated on a geographical basis.

Nationalistic aspirations seem to be backed up by recent statistics. Scottish GDP per capita, says Financial Times, could potentially be higher than France with oil and gas revenues and even without, it is still higher than other EU countries such as Italy. Current unemployment rate in Scotland (7.1%) is also lower than average Britain (7.4%).

Pro-union advocates, conversely, debate that political union with UK is the reason behind Scotland’s economic success. An independent Scotland, on the other hand, would lose the benefit of accessing the UK labour market and face greater financial risk. The exploit of finite resources such as gas and oil would arguably not be sufficient to cover the fiscal challenges ahead, especially in the long-term. Maintaining sterling as national currency also implies relying on a foreign bank; likewise, credit rating and spending in Scotland would depend on negotiations with the UK.

The outcome of the Scottish referendum seems to divide businesses as well as political parties and opinion makers. Despite avoiding intervening too directly in the yes/no debate, several industry leaders have expressed their views and discussed possible scenarios after the consultation.

Airline companies such as British Airways and Ryan Air, for instance, have welcomed Scottish government’s plan of gradually removing air passenger duty tax if the yes will prevail. They argue that this would not only change the way they operate their business, but it would also boost Scottish tourism industry. They also add that cooperation would not be threatened even in the scenario of Scotland using its own currency.

Different opinions, by contrast, have been expressed by oil giants such as Shell and BP. They have both warned against the uncertainty and instability which could be introduced in financial markets by Scotland’s decision of leaving the UK.

A yes vote could also impact the operations of other businesses which have significant interests and employees in Scotland. Banking group Lloyds and pension-based firm Standard Life have referred considering contingency plans in case of independence, such as moving head offices or transferring part of their businesses back to UK. Likewise, defence giant BAE system, which employs more than 3000 people in Scotland alone, is concerned that independence can jeopardise UK investments, and consequently put a great number of jobs at risk.

Article by HRreview journalist, Sergio Russo

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