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Scottish Independence best for entire UK and CBI should know better

Tony Banks, Business for Scotland
Leading entrepreneur Tony Banks is the Chairman of Business for Scotland and a CBI member

Leading entrepreneur Tony Banks is the Chairman of Business for Scotland and a CBI member

Independence best for entire UK and CBI should know better: Tony Banks makes remarks at prestigious London referendum event.

Business for Scotland’s new Chairman Tony Banks will be speaking at the St. Columba’s Debate in London tonight to an audience of nearly 500.

Tony will make a separate speech to the audience before being joined later by MPs from the Yes and No Campaign to debate Scotland’s choice this September.

Tony will be joined after his speech by SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP in the largest referendum debate held in London to date. They will be up against Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael MP and Labour’s Margaret Curran MP. The debate will be chaired by BBC political correspondent Iain Watson.

Tony will highlight the positive benefits of independence to the whole of the UK not just for Scotland. He will also address comments today by CBI officials on independence which he argues do not reflect the views of its membership.

St. Columba’s Debate Speech by Tony Banks

Ladies and gentleman, I believe there is a vote for independence in the hearts of most Scots. But emotion apart, it’s vital we use our heads when deciding the course of Scotland’s future.

I recognise that within the UK our futures are intertwined. I care not only about my fellow Scots, but about everyone across these isles. I was born in England and when I appeared on Channel Four’s Secret Millionaire it was not from Scotland but from Liverpool. So let me explain why I am convinced a Yes vote in this year’s referendum will be good for Scotland – and the rest of Britain and Northern Ireland.

First, we have to tackle the blight of inequality. The UK is currently the fourth most unequal country in the developed world.  The Fiscal Commission Working Group set up by the Scottish Government, whose number includes two Nobel economists, says that since 1975 the UK income gap has grown faster than in any other developed country. And inequality is of course one of the biggest inhibitors to economic growth.

Professionally, I am involved in the care home sector. Our company helps elderly people who need it. In doing so, we provide employment, pay taxes and create wealth. I, therefore, have a particular attachment to the belief that supporting those most in need is key to promoting broader economic health.

Fairness and prosperity are two pieces of the same jigsaw. This resonates with business people like me.  For example, I want to hire bright, committed people with a vocation in caring – their socio-economic background matters not. It is also in the interests of a stable economy to have high levels of productivity – and that means giving everyone of working age a fair opportunity to realise their potential.

Next we need to consider whether the UK offers the optimal economic and political model to achieve greater equality – and sustainable economic growth.  It is clear that in this respect the UK is not OK. We have a London-centric and short-term focused system that has failed to learn the lessons of the financial crisis or address sectoral, trade and geographic imbalances.

Population in London and the South-East is expected to rise by two million over the next seven years.  But the latest economic figures suggest no improvement in the balance between manufacturing and services despite the concerns of senior figures on the left and right of politics, including Lord Heseltine.

These voices are not opposed to the growth of financial services in London or elsewhere. And nor am I. Rather, they recognise that London and the City’s sustainable success is as much dependent on the development of the wider economy.

A Yes vote this year can be the trigger for major reform that will be in the long-term interests of London and the rest of the UK. Westminster needs to recognise that by letting go and allowing other parts of these islands to compete and create wealth will benefit everyone. I do not want growth and success elsewhere at the expense of London or the South-East. I simply want the other parts of these islands to be able to compete more effectively in the UK and around the world.

The numbers don’t support the belief that London’s performance will trickle down to the rest of the country, be that the north-east of England or the Central Belt of Scotland. In other words, Scotland has a sound financial basis on which to prosper independently but our potential is constrained by the Westminster straightjacket.

Scotland needs the powers to compete and competition is good for the UK economy.  Independence should be seen as a catalyst for structural reform across the UK. George Osborne worries about this because it involves change and he is more comfortable with the familiar.

That involves tailoring policy towards a City of London-led recovery pursued – not because it is necessarily sustainable – but because it retains power and improves the prospects of short-term political success in the South-East of England where elections are decided. But surely we must all think about the rest of the country and the ways in which our destinies remain intertwined.

I was not sure about declaring my views on independence so early in the debate – that was until Mr Osborne came to Scotland and continued the convention favoured by successive Westminster governments of trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

We have been told for generations that we were too poor and too small. Now, because those arguments have been disproven (Scotland more than pays its way in the UK and has done for decades), the same people pretend that everything about independence is complicated and difficult. They reckon if they muddy the waters enough, Scotland will bottle it in September.

But I don’t believe so.

In the end the referendum is about something very simple – the right to choose. Will we choose to take Scotland’s future into our own hands – or leave it with a Westminster system that isn’t working. As an entrepreneur my natural instinct is to take control of my own destiny and future.  Even when, as an independent country, we are co-operating with other countries in these isles – whether it be on currency, pensions or financial regulation, we’ll be free to make choices that are in our interests.

My third factor is something we choose already – our national identity. Let’s be clear: a Yes vote does not mean the end of Britishness. It does not mean an end to the union of monarchy, the defence union through NATO, the currency union or the family and social unions of these islands.

What it means is a change to the political and economic union so we can have the economic powers to make for a more prosperous and fairer society according to Scotland’s distinctive priorities and goals. It also means maintaining Scotland in the European Union in contrast to the direction of travel at Westminster.

As a youngster growing up in Scotland I began to realise the extent to which we are capable of ploughing our own furrow in a way that works for all of us.  When all the arguments are done about shared currency or North Sea oil, it boils down to whether we have the will and the self-confidence to build a better future.

I am proud to be British and will remain so after independence because I, not anyone else, choose my identity. I will cheer on Mo Farah at the next Olympics in Brazil because he is from the same island as me, where a common sense of identity will remain open to us all.

It does not matter whether he’s wearing Team England colours or not. I do not need to be part of an outdated political and economic union to be better together.  I am a proud Scot who was brought up in a working class family. My dad was an RAF logistics sergeant and my mum a housewife. In 1961, we lived for a while in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, when I was the youngest of four. A few years later we moved back to Dundee. Later I joined the Territorial Army before being so inspired by the experience that I left university to join the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. A few months later I was fighting under a Union flag in the Falklands.

I remain proud of my roots, north and south of the Border, and of my dual identity. I believe that independence is in the interests of not only Scotland – but also the rest of the UK. In this sense, I support an independent Scotland not despite but because I am British.

There is one additional matter I want to address this evening.

That is the comments of the CBI today.

I represent the fastest growing business network in Scotland. We have grown our membership to over 1600 businesspeople in less than a year.  Business for Scotland advances the interests of Scottish (not London) business and contributes positively to the public policy dialogue across the UK.

We believe independence is in the interests of business and that Scotland’s economy will thrive.  Our ranks are filled not exclusively but mostly with businesspeople running SMEs. We recognise that SMEs are 99.3% of the Scottish private sector. They are the lifeblood of Scotland’s growing economy.  Likewise, we particularly benefit from the support of self-made entrepreneurs who more so than other businesspeople see change as an opportunity, not a threat.

By contrast, the CBI represents very few companies in Scotland and mostly those based in London. Much more importantly, on the question of Scotland’s future, they have shown themselves to be part of the No campaign.  And not an impartial or thoughtful organisation representing well the interests of their membership.

Where in their analysis issued today is a consideration of the benefits of abolishing air passenger duty? Supported not least by British Airways.  Where is their consideration of the proposed measures to increase the workforce, to boost productivity by expanding childcare provision, to expand immigration to further strengthen Scotland’s balance sheet yet further?

Or their consideration of the White Paper’s plans to reduce business taxes with the powers of independence thereby attracting more business, investment and jobs to Scotland?

Where is their voice on the question of more women on the boards of companies? A policy the Scottish Government has made central to the case for doing things differently an as independent country.

All of these policies are articulated in the independence White Paper on Scotland’s Future. Yet all have been virtually ignored by the CBI.

The UK Government’s currency position has been torn apart by a world leading economist, Professor Leslie Young of Beijing University.   Yet the CBI does not even mention this research from Sir Tom Hunter’s well respected foundation.

The CBI’s argument on the question of Scotland’s membership of the EU simply parrots the UK Government’s position with nothing about the threat of a UK referendum on EU membership. The CBI offers nothing at all on how to rebalance the economy to the nations and regions outside London, how to boost growth and productivity, how to expand exports and address inequality in the interests of prosperity for all.

They do acknowledge that Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and they do recognise that business across the UK wants a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK after a Yes vote .  But otherwise they quite simply fail their own membership, very few of which support the CBI’s position against independence.

Indeed, they fail all of us by not contributing in a more constructive and balanced way to a healthy and worthwhile debate.  The CBI was against the establishment of the Scottish Parliament using many similar arguments, which have been proven comprehensively wrong. The great floods never arrived. Nor did the plagues of locusts. In fact, Scottish business has found the devolved Parliament to be a great supporter of economic growth and business success.

The leadership of the CBI has left itself open to accusations of being out on a limb in a way not befitting of an organisation steeped in tradition. I am a member of the CBI and I believe its members and the nation deserve better.

We must have a measured dialogue. Almost as important as the result is the way we go about this discussion as citizens of Scotland and the wider United Kingdom.

I welcome tonight’s discussion as another example of positive dialogue and growing interest in one of the most important debates of our times.

Thank you for listening.

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About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland he ran a small social media and sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and The Huffington Post.

13 Comments

  • I’ve been trying to gather evidence for myself, so that I can make an informed decision in September. The economic arguments put forward by Ivan McKee are easy to understand, and appear to me to be conclusive. I can’t find an equal and opposite argument yet from anybody? Just saying he is wrong isn’t good enough – we need to see a cohesive argument against what he presents. I agree with the comments about doubt – and when I see or read a statement that makes good sense, I “bank” it in my decision balance until someone debunks it. I have precious few “deposits” to date… Unless there is an avalanche of facts in the next few months, I suspect it will come down to who we believe and trust. One final thought – and for me, this is a clincher – apart from the SNP MP’s, not a single Scottish MP in Westminster is in the “yes” camp. All 53 MP’s (who disagree on just about every other issue under the sun) are unanimous in their public opposition to Scottish independence. Every single one of them is a conviction politician on this issue? No personal interest involved? Or am I just being an old cynic?

  • I do appreciate Tony Banks comments in that it is one of the few that puts Britain in a favourable light and doesn’t contain the chippy commentary we’ve been hearing from a lot of nationalists. However, as someone of Scottish roots who was brought up in London and now lives in Wales I really don’t want him to feel British as what would be the point of Scottish Independence. The nationalists want sovereignty yet will give it straight back with a currency union. However, any UK chancellor agreeing to that would be signing their own political death warrant as it would be such an about turn on what had previously been said. Funnily enough I think after all this the UK would probably rather join the Euro than have a currency union with Scotland. After all we do more business with the Eurozone than Scotland and that seems to be the main criteria according to the nationalists.

    • British will mean something completely different after independence more like the way Norwegians and Swedish people feel Scandinavian. With independence we get 100% sovereignty then we get the choice of what elements of that sovereignty we share with others for mutual benefit. We will like all other independent nations in our interconnected, interdependent global markers dominated word share the right level of sovereignty to gain shared regulation and shared currency etc when it is beneficial to Scotland. Right now Westminster has 100% of Scotland sovereignty and doesn’t seem to care much about us and our bespoke social and economic needs.

      • You do put a very good argument and I appreciate the effort you put in to present the case. It is much better than the normal argument I hear for independence and is backed up by some sound evidence. I would see it from a different perspective however. I see the benefit of the oil but firstly how sure can you be that the three main parties are bluffing about currency union. If the report is true about the minister saying it would be ok then what about the demand that it should be linked to keeping nuclear weapons at faslane. That doesn’t seem to have been mentioned much. Furthermore, it is absolutely certain that the UK would need some concession and would almost certainly play hardball. The population would expect nothing less. You have seen the fuss about adopting the Euro and that was a good idea at the time in economic terms. I am certain the English will put up a similar fuss about sharing a currency with an independent Scotland. You don’t have to do it now but you’ll really need your greatest power of persuasion to pull that one off.

        • Businesses and “the markets” will put pressure on Wesmtinster to do what is in the best interests of business. On the 19th of September it will change from politics to diplomacy – as it does when one country negotiates deals with another. Scotland is a country rich in resources, with a skilled workforce. We can go it alone if we need to , but since we trade with our closest neighbours, it benefits all of us if we continue to trade without transaction charges.
          The top levels of SNP have said that Keeping Trident is not an option – as do a huge percentage of the Scots population – on that, they could not negotiate and then expect to be re-elected, imho.

  • The Telegraph yesterday listed a long list of people and organisations who have raised issues with the SNP proposals but not had any adequate response beyond “read the manifesto”. – basically the usual response of “The Scottish Government is more trustworthy than you – we know better you’re wrong”. Sometimes I feel the voters are are being asked to accept hopes as facts – have faith is the suggestion.

    If the OBR says the figures appear wrong….the OBR is wrong. If Barosso says no to the EC “fast track”, he’s wrong. If Westminster say the English won’t have a sterling zone union, they’re wrong. –the list goes on. Hunter has tried to create certainty but the Leslie Young document is just another opinion – it doesn’t change the fact we head to September with no CERTAINTY on currency. It may appear as certain as life after death is to those of us with some faith – but others may point out that one man’s “fact” is another’s nonsense.

    To be fair it is clear how trusted Salmond is to many people that the YES camp seems to be solid or growing in numbers. Or maybe the “phoney war” Darling is masterminding from his bunker is to blame.

    More seriously, there are some aspects of Mr Banks commentary that are quite relevant and some I agree with so please don’t think I’m just some angry right wing accountant as I’m far from that. But I do think it fair to expect voters to have CERTAINTY on currency i.e. for the YES and NO people to agree what will happen rather than have opposing views to decide from. It’s a bit like being asked to choose between two religions….and you only get to find out who is right on the other side…

    But I do work in tax and think the tax proposals for YES and NO are a disgrace – 6 of the 640 pages of the SNP book are on tax and say nothing. Lamont’s intervention to say how nice NO would be as we could have higher rates just for Scotland seemed even worse.

    Surely it is totally wrong for Mr Banks to try to publicly TELL the CBI what their members think and to tell them they aren’t representing their own members – I found that bizzare. I see the debate in my own office and there seems to me to be more business leaders in the NO than YES camp – even if the YES camp are often more vociferous.

    The Banks message infers to me that he wants the CBI to go away really – it is quite remarkable really as a response. As Soros and BlackRock are swept aside for their view of a “sterlingzone” so the CBI are to be ignored by voters please.

    Turning to currency, Mr Banks states as a fact we won’t stop being British and that we will keep our currency in a sterling union. This is, of course, the stock SNP response.

    However, do others note think this is a lie – it may happen (I think it would personally!) – but I dislike it when Government lies to its people – and the presentation of a “presumption” of a Westminster U-turn as a “fact” when it is a prediction is not healthy.

    Despite Leslie Young’s intervention I see no particular move in Westminster to agree to a union!.

    As we head to September will we get a Union agreed- it seems Beveridge wants that but it seems unlikely they’ll agree it before the vote.

    Do other businessmen worry the major banks will simply suspend all new lending to Scotland if we wake up on September 19th less than 2 years from being a nation again and have no currency agreement for their credit teams to derive comfort from – will they lend knowing that the borrower may be outside the UK regulatory net, using a different currency and secured on non-UK based assets by 2016? I can imagine the chat around the Boardroom at NAG’s Australian HQ….damage limitation to cut Scotland off forthwith for new lending? I’d not bet against that.

    So I am afraid I do not think it is honest at all for people to be told we WILL get a currency union. I wish the campaign was clean. I wish we had facts which were facts.

    The truth is that we HOPE for a Sterlingzone with rUK but that it is NOT agreed. We HOPE to get fastrack for the EC but that is NOT agreed. There is debate about Article 48 or 49 and the other members of the EC need to agree.

    It’s all very well carping that we share the pound, we own some of it etc etc. but it takes two to tango and we’re voting to LEAVE….if the rUK say NO to it then it can’t happen no matter how much we want it.

    Personally, if we vote YES, I suspect it will happen – but it’s a risk.

    Leslie Young’s paper is quite timely but it is interesting to note that whilst the SNP have leapt on it as evidence of unreasonable behaviour in London they fail to stress the other aspects he explores!…..– which are that Leslie Young sees a requirement to have close to fiscal and economic control and is that not much the same as Devo Max?

    Oh, Leslie Young also pointed out our big financial services organisations will all choose to remain within the UK regulatory net and he says that’s why the Treasury view is wrong on Scottish financial sector risk – the risk won’t vote YES…so bye bye to that % of our GDP. Sillars suggested the banks would stay as moving staff and computers is expensive. With due respect to Sillars who is a man of apparent integrity, that’s daft – the staff and computers will probably stay – the head office, profits and tax base will go “on ahead” to London to be domiciled in the same regulatory net as 90% of their customers – it’s probably already happening post 2007/8 crisis right now!

    Mr Banks says we are too London Centric – – so what?…. for me I see a vibrant international city – a real international capital city for a major world player – generating billions in tax for the UK. I don’t want to be a foreigner in my country just because I might travel south of Gretna sometime. If my kids go to work in London I don’t want their pensions to be “foreign” when they return. I don’t want their taxes to be in the UK whilst I’m in Scotland. I don’t want to make international phone calls and pay international mail. I don’t want them to have to go to the Scottish Consul if they are in trouble or have to use and E111 to get medical care. I want my English family and my Scottish family to remain in the same country.

    Like Salmond and Sturgeon I carry an English surname – unlike them I’ve no problem with sharing power in one Parliament (well…3 if you count Holyrood and Brussels). I disagree with Bank’s view that we’ll still be British – no we won’t. That term refers to all of us in a single union – it is in practical terms synonymous with the UK – legally different but the same when abroad.

    I dislike his notion we might “bottle it” – choosing a positive vote for NO to remain in the UK is not negative. People hide in lorries to come to the Uk, why do we want to stick 2 fingers up?

    I notice he mentions the now famous quote that BA think it’s good for business to remove APT. Is the contrary view not that this would simply allow Europeans to use our airports as changeover spots for international travel – increasing the plane traffic over leafy Bearsden without adding much to the ordinary Scot’s pocket? I don’t mind the quote but please can you all be clear that Willie Walsh said it would be “marginally positive” for BA to vote yes – not for Scotland or the Scots – for BA – he’s saying his shareholders (not that many in Scotland I suspect) might be better off if we both leave the UK and follow through on the SNP idea of cutting APT.

    In any case, I am grateful for my eye being drawn to this article. I can see that the newfound zeal for high taxes by Labour because “that’s fairer” in their devolution commission last week sends the NO camp into disarray – it creates a landscape where the alternative to YES is poorly organised rabble where the left and right wings can’t agree on what “devoplus” might mean. It’s a gift to the YES team.

    However, that doesn’t change some fundamental issues. The main one is the dishonest and deceitful way the YES campaign present the following suppositions as fact
    1. We’ll keep sterling in a currency union
    2. We’ll use Article 48 to automatically stay in the EC

    Each of these items requires counter party agreement. Whilst expert opinions are relevant enough, they don’t turn a preference into a binding agreement which can be presented to the voters as fact.

    More worryingly each is fundamental to the future of the UK and Scotland.

    Yet more worrying is that the counterparties are seemingly not likely to agree to these matters ahead of the vote- and uncertainty on these post YES would be very difficult for Scotland!

    I fully anticipate a response highlighting I am part of Project Fear (I’m not).

    But “yes or no” voters alike deserve a proper and honest appraisal of the risks (mostly short term) and the unresolved issues and what they mean for business.

    We need a fair and open debate- the current state of play is turning this into something like a religious debate – where faith and belief rather than judgement are the cornerstones.

    Either way, I will pray for a happy ending.

    Thanks again.
    Donald

    • I partially agree with the sentiments expressed in your post. I’ve perused the better together website, looking for factual material, but it is sadly lacking – lots of quotes from businesses, but no substantial facts. The white paper is a bit vague, but I largely blame the UK government for that, because they are not very forthcoming themselves (which is of course to their tactical advantage). The only wow! moment I’ve had so far, was watching Ivan McKee outlining the economic case for an independent Scotland on YouTube. Nothing from the better together campaign comes close to the simplicity and clarity of his arguments. Sadly, it may come down to a choice “who do I believe”, and if that’s the case, I’m leaning away from believing those for whom a defeat will mean losing their jobs in Westminster.

  • Best article I’ve ever read it is this simple and easily accomplished ,Sir if a had a hat I’d take it off to you ! God bless ,

  • Well done, Tony. I’m interested to hear how it went at St Columba’s, as it seemed to me you were going into the lion’s den what with the elders being almost totally No.

  • More playing the man not the message from Business for Scotland. Why? because you can’t win on the economic arguments. Even the one point mentioned by Tony Banks betrays the fact that he hasn’t even read our analysis -APD is in there Tony. And as for membership – our members employ 500,000 people in Scotland. How about B4S?

    • First of all Neil I would like to thanks the CBI for all the good press your report gave to Business for Scotland and the pro independence movement. Pronouncing whats good for the Scottish voters from a studio in London and then embarrassing loosing he debate in the morning and then refusing to debate in the evening just made the CBI a laughing stock in Scotland.

      As for your members Tony is one of them and employs over 1,000 people in Scotland. Directors of some of the larger PLC’s who make up your 500,000 have told me privately that they support a Yes vote, most have declared themselves neutral. We have 1,600 members in Scotland you have less than 80. Please tell your boss next time he is in Scotland that I am more than happy to debate the merits of independence with him. My diary is pretty full but a weeks notice should do it – lets film it!

  • […] Leading entrepreneur Tony Banks is the Chairman of Business for Scotland and a CBI member Independence best for entire UK and CBI should know better: Tony Banks makes remarks at prestigious London referendum event. Business for Scotland’s new Chairman Tony Banks will be speaking at the St.  […]

  • An excellent and forthright statement of what should really be, to any busniess person with a head for the numbers and a respect for democratic values, the blindingly obvious – including the well-measured censure of the CBI, wrong in the past and hopelessly wrong again. To realise that Scotland has been ruinously constrained in matters social, cultural and economic in the past, also means that at root, our potential for business success has also been stifled, while our natural resources have been rapaciously exploited for the interests of a London dominated financial hegemony, which has also been responsible for steadily underdeveloping much of England. Like the author, I too have lived in England (for most of my professional career in the South West and London) and now spend a part of my life in Yorkshire and I have seen the depressing effects of the UK’s crippling imbalance from English perspectives as well. Scotland’s independence will not only be vital for our future north of the Border – but may yet prove the catalyst for serious and much needed change – political and economic in England as well.

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