Now, as some of the more observant of those of you interested in the Independence debate may have spotted, there have been occasions, believe it or not, when the No campaign have attempted to scare the people of Scotland away from the idea of Independence.
Ever keen to avoid the specific terminology “too small, too weak and too poor” the message nevertheless looks strikingly similar. Quickly recapping over some of the “classics” we were told that passport controls would need to be put in place on the border between Scotland and England, that we would no longer have a National Health Service, mortgage rates would rise, we would lose our AAA credit rating and, on top of all of this England would have no choice to bomb Scottish airports in order to defend itself from attack.
Now whilst some of these may cause you to smile (I certainly find them amusing), there is a serious side to all this. Labour MSP, Patricia Ferguson herself acknowledged that the Labour campaign is based on playing on people’s fears. A growth in national self-confidence means a growth in support for Independence, a belief that we can move forward on the international stage. On the other hand damaging national self-confidence and making the Scottish people doubt themselves could have the opposite effect. Perhaps that is why, after the huge successes of Scotland’s Olympians last month, a Panelbase survey indicated that people were more likely, rather than less likely, to support Independence. The Olympics produced a groundswell of positivity, making it hard for Unionists to play a negative game.
Now one of my favourite negative stories from the No Campaign is that an Independent Scotland would put off big companies from investing in Scotland – all this constitutional “uncertainty” is damaging to Scotland’s economy. Yet despite these apparent fears, evidence for which, when challenged, the Unionists have failed to provide, another company has today confirmed that Scottish Independence would make absolutely no difference to their decision to invest. Paul Walsh, Chief Executive of Diageo, was keen to point out that a decision to invest in a country or a product, in this case whisky, would be made on purely economic grounds. Constitutional affairs have no bearing whatsoever. Indeed, when you are talking about such a huge company as Diageo why should it? They trade in approximately 180 markets and employ 20,000 people with offices in 80 countries. Why should Scottish Independence be a barrier to them?
The same can be said for GlaxoSmithKline. In March this year they announced an investment of £100 million in its two sites at Montrose and Irvine. Rather than welcoming the news the Unionist politicians chose to focus on the decision by GSK to also invest at Ulverston in Cumbria. It was claimed that Scotland lost out on this investment because of the Independence debate. Sir Andrew Witty, Chief Executive of GSK was quick to refute these claims on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland however stating:
“Obviously the very big investment we’re making in Montrose and Irvine signals our confidence in the future of Scotland. What we’ve done speaks louder than words.”
I remember listening to the interview in my car at the time, blood pressure rising at the notion that such a question would even be asked, that, in the face of such a positive news story there would be a desire to desperately seek out the negative.
Investments from Diageo and GSK are just the tip of the iceberg for Scotland in recent years. There have been recent significant investments from a host of other international companies including Taqa, Avaloq, Ineos and PetroChina, Dell, Gamesa, Amazon, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsui, Life Technologies and many, many more.
Far from frightening away international investors Scotland tops the table for inward investment in the UK outside of London. This has been borne out by a study from Cardiff Business School, by the Ernst and Young UK Attractiveness Survey (PDF) and by Channel 4 News’ invaluable “Factcheck” blog – which I would encourage you to explore.
Confidence in the economic decisions of a Government are what attracts inward investment. Time and again the decisions of Scotland’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP have proved to bear fruit, even with our currently limited powers. In contrast, George Osborne’s economic austerity policies show no sign of lifting the UK out of recession. Scotland is a nation that should be buoyed by self-confidence. Far from damaging Scotland’s economy, the Independence debate is putting us on the World stage as never before. International companies are taking note and are setting up shop here. Holywood is also noticing – and let’s not underestimate the benefits that could bring to Scotland’s tourism industry.
The rest of the World can see the immense value that is in Scotland. Don’t let us be the only ones who don’t.