Should anything distract from the referendum campaign?

More than 90% of small business owners in Scotland say they’ve already decided how they are going to vote in the September referendum on Scottish independence. But 48% of them believe independence would be a negative step for their business. 37% thought that independence would represent a positive step for their company, while 10% felt it would have no material impact.

Ingenious Britain Surveyed 1,000 firms
Ingenious Britain
Surveyed 1,000 firms
The finding comes from new research by Ingenious Britain, a small business network which surveyed 1000 small business owners in Scotland. When asked if they believed they had enough information from the different campaigns to make an informed choice about the potential impact of Scottish independence on their business, only 63% said yes compared with 37% who said no.

When it came to investing in the future, 41% felt that independence would make it less likely that they would be able to invest in growing their business. By contrast, 36% felt it made it more likely and 13% thought it would make no difference. They identifies two worrying factors. The first is a fear that business tax increases in an independent Scotland would have a direct impact on their ability to invest. The second concerns exporting to the rest of the UK which could be a big problem if Scotland had to adopt a new currency.

“One thing all businesses need, especially small businesses, is certainty,” said Marlon Wolff, CEO of Ingenious Britain. “There is an indication coming through our research that a sizeable proportion of small business owners have sufficient reservations about the potential negative issues and challenges independence might present to be seriously questioning whether it is really in the interests of their company. However, it is going to be a close decision with many reacting against what they perceive to be status quo in which their needs as Scottish businesses are not reflected or taken into account.”

Tessa Hartmann  Uncertainty having a negative impact
Tessa Hartmann
Uncertainty having a negative impact
However, it’s clear that business owners are as divided as the rest of the population. Dr Tessa Hartmann, who runs Glasgow-based Hartmann Media, a PR and communications company working in the fashion sector, is firm in her belief that independence would be a bad step. “Given the long life cycle in orders that exist within the fashion industry, the uncertainty is already having a negative impact on the sector and affecting our exports, especially as customers don’t know what currency we would be using in an independent Scotland.

“But more than that, Scotland’s long heritage in fashion and textiles has thrived as part of Brand Britain. Remove Scotland from the UK and many of our 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.”

However, Rory Haigh, who owns Optimum Underfloor Heating in Inverness, takes the contrary view and believes independence would be a boost for his business. “Scotland has completely different social and economic needs to the south of England,” he explained. “We are a small country with a good track record of entrepreneurship that is not currently being harnessed or promoted. The government of an independent Scotland would be far more proactive in doing that and in addressing the everyday needs and concerns of Scottish businesses.”

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David Calder has been a broadcast journalist for over 30 years. Before moving to the Caledonian Mercury, he worked for the BBC (national and regional) as well as parts of ITV and the World Service. He worked for prestigious programmes such as The Money Programme, You & Yours, Today and The World at One. He spent two years making mini-documentaries for Radio 5 Live and was a regular correspondent for CBC (Radio Canada). He was a regular reporter on various news and current affairs programmes on BBC Scotland as well as producing or presenting (sometimes both) science, legal affairs and arts programmes. As well as his contributions to the Caledonian Mercury, he is also a freelance producer in Scotland for the satellite channel, Al Jazeera.
  • OskarMatzerath

    Come on, you can hardly claim renowned Tory fundraiser Tessa Hartmann as the voice of balance.

    As for her claims that the ‘uncertainty’ is ‘already having a negative impact on our sector’…give us an example. Research it, find out if it’s true. Let’s see it backed up by someone with no axe to grind. If it is, that’s a story. If not, it’s just bellicose politicking.

    Her claim that orders are not being fulfilled due to uncertainty on currency is so banal and risible, it’s difficult to know where to start pulling it apart. The idea that in the unlikely event (Did I say unlikely? Try about-as-likely-as-Godzilla-being-found-in-a-Fife-garden-shed) of Scotland having the pound withdrawn at midnight on the 19th of September, the idea that any outstanding orders couldn’t be fulfilled in whatever currency they were initially ordered, is taking personal bias to ridiculous lengths.

    Also, she seems awfully keen to use the prefix, ‘Dr.’ In which exact field was her doctorate earned? Economics? Medicine? Not many people who dabble in the grey art of PR tend to have a PhD, and her overuse of ‘Dr’ tends to make one think that she’s employing it to add a gravitas to her views that she herself can’t possibly muster. So, come on…validate. For otherwise, this has the look of a PR puff piece.

  • Jan Terje Våga

    If we Norwegians could make it alone, you Scottish will have no problems. We have so much in common – historically, culturally, economically and even naturally….

  • Jan Terje Våga

    If we Norwegians could make it alone, you Scottish would have no problems. We have so much in common – historically, culturally, economically and naturally….