EEF chief warns of political and economic disaster if Scotland votes “Yes”

The Scottish chief executive of UK manufacturers’ association EEF claims that independence could turn Scotland into an economic wasteland.

By the end of this week, the shape of the UK could be almost irrevocably altered. And as the battle to persuade voters in Scotland to say “yes” or “no” enters its final, perhaps most critical stage, the independence debate will dominate this week’s headlines.

Over the course of the past few weeks The Engineer has considered the potential impact of a “yes” vote on the UK’s industrial landscape. And whilst it’s impossible to predict with certainty what might happen, it’s clear that many leading industrialists and business people are deeply concerned about the implications of the UK breaking up.

Perhaps the most strongly worded warning yet, however, has come from EEF chief executive, Terry Scuoler, who has today claimed that independence would be a political and economic disaster for Scotland.

Urging Scots to vote no, Scuoler, a Glaswegian, said that a vote for independence could lead to Scotland becoming an economic wasteland, greatly diminishing the standing of both Scotland and the rest of the UK and seriously damaging the long-term economic and social prospects of the nation.

He warned that young people would be especially hard hit by a diminished economy in Scotland and that pensioners would see the value of their investments decline, with a weak rate of exchange in a future Scottish currency undermining their spending power.

‘People need to wake up to the enormity of the decision they are facing and the potential nightmare scenario were the yes campaign to succeed,’ said Scuoler. ‘The yes campaign has sold a vision of a prosperous future. But it is an illusion, and a dangerous one at that. The reality is there would be deeply damaging implications for the economy and the living standards of ordinary Scots for decades to come’

Scuoler’s concerns echo similar comments already made by prominent members of the business and scientific research communities. Late last month, over 130 business leaders with operation in Scotland put their names to a letter published in the Scotsman newspaper, warning that uncertainty over currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for exports could hamper the growth of the Scottish economy at a time of record investment and high employment rates.

Signatories to the letter included Keith Cochrane, chief executive of Weir Group (one of Scotland’s largest engineering firms); Archie Bethel, who heads up Babcock international’s marine division; the executive vice president of BG Group Sir John Grant and the chief executives of Thales UK, Aggreko, and BHP Billiton. The chief executive of BP, Bob Dudley, has also warned that a breakup of the UK could create uncertainty that would be offputting to investors in the North Sea oil industry.

Meanwhile, a number of senior academics and scientific researchers have expressed fears that a “yes” vote could lead to cuts in academic research in Scotland – which receives a higher proportion of UK research council spending than the country’s share of population – and trigger an exodus of Scotland’s most talented scientists.

However, hundreds of other business leaders and academics including the founder of the Stagecoach transport firm, Sir Brian Souter, and founder of energy industry services company Enermech, Doug Duguid, have come out in favour of independence. The Scottish government is also proposing a new common research area that maintains the existing UK-wide funding councils.