Scottish business groups react to proposal for new independence referendum

Scottish business groups have given a mixed response to the call by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a new referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

During a recent press conference in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she would ‘seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK government on the details of a Section 30 order – the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum’.

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Andy Willox, Scottish Policy Convenor of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: ‘FSB survey work conducted after last year’s Scottish Parliament elections, but before the poll on Europe, revealed very little appetite amongst smaller firms for another independence referendum.

‘Of course, there’s a lot more going on now – in terms of faltering confidence and rising costs – than there was last May. What we don’t know is if these changes have shifted views one way or the other, but I daresay that will become apparent in the weeks and months ahead.’

Hugh Aitken, Scotland Director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), was similarly circumspect, saying: ‘Scottish businesses have acted with resilience since the EU referendum, and, in an already uncertain environment, their priority is clarity as soon as possible on what a future deal could look like.

‘What’s important is that the needs of Scotland – and the other devolved nations – are heard and understood in the discussions on the UK’s future relationship with Europe. The Scottish and UK governments must continue to work together, with business, to ensure the best deal from the negotiations for Scottish firms, and this work should continue as a matter of priority.’

The UK government would need to approve the terms of a Scottish independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon suggested that it should take place sometime between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, when the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU become ‘clearer’.

However, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, said: ‘The First Minister’s proposal offers Scotland the worst of all worlds. Her timetable would force people to vote blind on the biggest political decision a country could face.’

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