Scotland's Economy

Self interest at the core of the No campaign

Unfair wealth distribution in the UK!

Unfair wealth distribution in the UK!

I wear a yes badge on my lapel and it has led to some interesting conversations at networking events, in business meetings and most recently on a train. Near the end of a journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh, a business person sitting opposite me motioned to my badge and asked:

“What on earth would make you want to vote yes?”

Always on the look out for a conversion, I responded:

“Because a Scottish Parliament in an independent Scotland would be elected by and answerable to only the people of Scotland and that means they would have only the best interests of the people of Scotland at heart.  This will mean we have government for the people by the people of Scotland rather than by the elite for the elite – mainly of London and the South East.

I thought I had done quite well off the cuff, but he replied,

“Oh for sure we all want those things but why cant we have that under the union”?

“Well because the political system that voting No represents is unfair, flawed democratically and controlled by vested interests in London and the South East with radically different social and economic needs and values to Scotland, all of whom are focussed on a short-term electoral or economic cycle”.

“This means that no matter who we vote for within the union, Scotland’s interest are always a lesser priority to those of London and the South-East. The Westminster system’s political and economic policy focus is on the needs of the City of London and more broadly those most likely to benefit in the lead up to an election from the South-East economy’s short-term performance, the voting bulk of which has become so large it now swings every Westminster election. Which is why they get the government or policies they support, even if quite often its not in their longer-term interests either. And always regardless of how Scotland votes.”

He paused for a second and said, with a quizzical look on his face;

“You make it sound as if the system is completely broken, but its not is it?  I mean you can’t prove to me that it is broken, so how can you get my vote, after all if its not broke don’t try to fix it!”

“Well that depends on how you define broken.” I replied

“I mean just how bad do things have to get before people accept that the one policy fits all Westminster straightjacket isn’t working for Scotland nor indeed anywhere outside London and the South East?

He listened patiently as I pointed out that:

  • Scotland’s economy had suffered from years of deindustrialisation due to the City of London centric finance policies
  • The rising inequality of wealth distribution in our society, both in terms of social mobility and geographically, makes us the fourth most unequal society in the western world and with lower levels of economic engagement holds back our growth
  • The democratic flaw in the Westminster system that means however Scotland votes we always get the government and policies the middle-class population of London and the South East choose
  • The ancestral and insider hegemony of the Westminster elite and the unreformed House of Lords that doesn’t represent the majority view in Scotland
  • The failed (half hearted) attempts to reform the Westminster voting system and the House of Lords (despite Scotland voting for proportional representation in the devolution referendum and being very happy with the result)
  • The constant scapegoating of the disabled, underemployed, under educated, sick, poor and especially immigrants in our society rather than actually dealing with the structural problems of the system
  • The rise of the far right in England, even if it has a friendly “pint drinking blokey front man”. UKIP taking 20% of the vote in the English council elections and setting the political agenda especially on Europe and immigration despite the fact that they have lost their deposits in every Scottish seat they contested at the last election and again at the recent Donside by election
  • The rise of power and influence of large corporates (as opposed to real people in policy setting), and through inappropriate lobbying access, and cash for access,.
  • 29% of Scots living in fuel poverty despite being born in a fuel rich nation and add to that record rates of child poverty; in some areas of Scotland one in three children are brought up in conditions of poverty despite being born in a nation that raised more taxes per head than the average for the UK every year for thirty year
  • Life expectancy in de-industrialised areas of Scotland being up to 8 years less than in wealthy areas of London and the South East
  • NHS spending in Scotland at risk of being cut due the fact that privatisation in England means lower public spending (even though it may become more expensive for patents in the long term) as our budget is a % of the English budget, and we have decided not to privatise our NHS
  • 48 thousand million pounds being spent on high speed trains that only go from London to Manchester or Leeds but Scotland still has to pay almost 10% of the cost, when we have other spending priorities

“How can a system that fails so spectacularly on so many levels, not need fixing?” I asked.

High speed trains.  Not coming to Scotland any time soon!

High speed trains. Not coming to Scotland any time soon!

“How can anyone vote No and accept a system that creates or enhances these problems when voting Yes gets us the possibility of a blank sheet of paper to design a better Scotland, one based on the needs and values of our distinct economy and society.  One where can start defining what we think it will take to create a Scotland that is fairer, greener, healthier, more confident, more entrepreneurial, happier, healthier, and more successful. And all whilst maintaing many ties across the home nations and further afield in Europe and around the world where those ties are mutually beneficial.

He just looked at me with a smile and said;

“I agree with everything you have just said, you are in fact completely right, but you misunderstood my point, when I said it wasn’t completely broken I mean for me.  I have done rather well out of the system and so it isn’t broken for me, and I don’t want it to change, it matters little to me that others don’t know how to play the system. So I will still be voting no”.

Now you probably thought I was going to tell a story of how I converted a right wing businessman from a No to a Yes, but sadly not. In fact, this experience represents a far more interesting lesson.  As a result, I have come to realise that there are probably two types of potential No voters; first, all of those that I have debated and who have stood up for the union are those that have personally benefited from the union, and want to protect their own perceived self interest. Where as all of the Yes campaigners I have met are simply looking to build a better Scotland.

These No campaigners include Westminster politicians who want to maintain their salary and position and of course still generous expense accounts; business people with current or potential knighthoods, OBE’s and CBE’s, MSP’s and political party members blinded by tribalism and a need to play the Westminster power game on behalf of their party;  business people who have created wealth for themselves and blame others and not the system for growing inequality in UK society – seemingly unaware of the fact that the more we engage the economically disenfranchised in society the more productive employees, customers and taxpayers we have. Indeed, the main business people on Scottish TV arguing for a No vote are or have been Conservative Party supporters and often Conservative council candidates.

An institutionalised system will always be protected often by any means by those who have benefited from the system and those who lack the vision to see a better way or who just don’t care that the system fails more people that it helps.

It is unfortunate some of them don’t have the vision to see how structural change to the UK system is necessary to ensure a sustainable and stable economic recovery and the success of the new UK free trade zone in the longer-term. The way things are going increasingly few people are going to be able to say “I’m alright Jack” down the line.

Secondly, there is a type of potential No voter (the majority of No voters) who are simply those that don’t yet have enough information to move from what they perceive to be the “status quo”, their default setting. In other-words, “softer” No voters or those that can be persuaded by reasoned arguments and vision, especially when the arguments for Yes are brought to life in a way which is personal to them.

I wholeheartedly believe there are more open minded voters in Scotland than those that are institutionally blinded to the opportunity for real progress. Thats the good thing about democracy of course, regardless of how we vote Scotland will get the political system our nation deserves. I just think we deserve better than the unfixable Westminster system that has failed us for so long.

My story does have a happy ending, if not the one I had hoped for. Despite not convincing my initial traveling companion, before I had to leave the train at Haymarket, as I was leaving the station I felt a hand on my shoulder that belonged to a man who turned out to be a corporate lawyer. He said:

“I just wanted you to know that what you said on the train and, well actually, your opponents vacuous response has moved me from unsure to a Yes,  that was just the clarity I needed”.

“Me too” I replied.


> Every businessperson who believes Scotland would benefit from a Yes vote should join business for Scotland and become one of our business ambassadors.  Have conversations like mine on the train and we will win, help us secure Scotland’s future on September 2014 18th.

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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 Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, 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 Believe in Scotland.


  • Living in England. Anglia, I wouldn’t want to try to persuade /dissuade Scottish voters. I think it’s a good idea but my point is about self interest. @ all elections parties promise all sorts of goodies. Tax is the big one & of course vote for us, you’re one of us, you can be like us. News vox pop items with clearly un/misinformed passing vague comments on promised policy. I do try to decide on the underlying aims on offer, not on personal gain. I always rule out the Tories because the politics of corporate greed don’t help anyone, not even the greedy who would gain far more from a thriving economy. The argument on the train convinced me to “vote yes” because it’s good for Scotland. Not my shout, however. But long term national good over short term gain is a hard point to make. That’s why those after power play it the way they do.

  • The biggest problem the Yes campaign has, and one of the main reasons there are so many undecided (who will err on the side of safety and vote No) is Alex Salmond. Well, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon to be more precise. Together they cut a glib, smug profile, playing to the patriot in us all with soundbites but too often light on content. Voters equate voting Yes with voting for Salmond and the SNP running Scotland forever more, and for as long as that perception exists the No campaign have a strong hand.

    • Paul this blog does not advocate voting for any one political party, but rather suggests that Scotland would thrive as an independent nation. We look at the numbers and make a case, and as a result I find it a strange argument that the most popular FM/DFM at mid 2nd term in Scottish political history is anything but an asset to the Yes campaign. There are a great deal of people who don’t like Salmond in particular but the vast majority are politically active / politically tribal loyalty opponents of him and his party and that number is decreasing quickly.

      Here are the numbers from the most recent poll from Pannalbase my observations in (brackets)

      On Independence:
      Yes 36% (unchanged since March)
      No 44% (-2)
      Undecided 20%
      (Yes needs and 8% swing)

      Asked if looked like Britain were going to leave EU:
      Yes 44%
      No 44%
      (This is interesting as is 52% yes if Tories look like winning again and I would suggest both are strong probabilities).

      In constituency vote (compared to 2011 election results)

      SNP 45% (no change)
      LAB 30% (-2)
      CON 13% (-1)
      LIB 5% (-3%)

      OTHER 6% (+5%)

      (No change whatsoever mid second term from an unheard-of high!!!)

      SNP 45% (+1)
      LAB Labour 27% (+1)
      CON 13% (+1)
      Greens 6% (+2)
      LIB 6% (+1)
      Others 4% (-1)

      (So if there was a Scottish election tomorrow Scotland would possibly get a bigger SNP majority by one or two!)

      Ipso facto the FM / DFM are popular as is their party (personal rating are also far higher for SNP leaders than for unionist party leaders).

      I take it Paul that you are traditionally not an SNP supporter, and therefor it is perfectly reasonable that background may drive a dislike for the FM and DFM but I would suggest you focus on what is best for Scotland in the longer term, and that is a yes vote – then at the next Scottish election, campaign to kick the SNP out and have your party run Scotland with all the appropriate powers or a real and thriving nation – no mater who runs an independent Scotland IMHO it will be better than if Westminster still call the shots for us.

      We must all remember this is a referendum on how we run our country, not an election on who runs our country.



    • Paul – I’ve never met Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon so my impression of them is entirely based on TV interviews, newspaper articles etc. I must have read at least as many as most but I don’t understand where people like you get this “glib, smug profile” idea from. “Glib and smug” to me applies to a bunch of Old Etonians who think they were born to rule and got their teenage kicks from trashing restaurants and waving wads of fivers around, not two people who look completely ordinary and understand the issues facing the average Scot a lot better than Gideon Osborne or the appalling Boris. And Scotland will be around long after all of these people are gone from the scene. You have a chance to help bring about a dramatic change in your country’s circumstances. Don’t know how old you are but this might be your only chance (it will probably be mine). Don’t blow it because you don’t like the way Alex Salmond looks.

  • Its a point that seems to go unnoticed at times. Plenty of Scots have benefited from the union, and will of course defend it, after all it has worked for them. When someone defends the union you must ask yourself why. Few will actually say ” I’ve done alright, I’m happy with it”. Instead they will go on about better/stronger together. MPs are a pride example, blethering about better together when what they mean is ‘my £66,000 a year is riding on this….’

    • I would even say that there was a time when the Union was good for Scotland and the other home nations, not so good for all the countries that teaming up allowed us to invade together, but good for us. But just because something might have worked once doesn’t mean we should never replace it when it stops working – same is true for microwaves, TV’s phones and cars as it is for outdated political systems of Governance that stop working.

    • RE Plenty of Scots have benefited from the union, and will of course defend it< It could be argued that those Scots are the ones who have done the most damage economically to Scotland such as Gordon Brown and Darling. The much talked about Scottish deficit actually includes 4.1 billion in interest payments on the UK debt - add to that another billion in nuclear weapons led defence spend and Scotland deficit becomes one of the smallest in the world if not actually non existent! Had Scotland's GDP grown at the same rate as the average of the UK since 1963, Scotland's GDP would be 25% larger than it is today. We cant afford the union

    • I believe there is the possibility that the figure of £66, 000 could increase.A separate debate then on what is the worth of our politicians, and subsequently, are they worth it. But in the context of this article, is there a magic key somewhere that will unlock the mind set no voters who constantly ask for definitive answers now to questions that are to be debated, and not decided..not yet at least. The EU: a changing framework that surely we have to be in to influence for outcomes better suited to us. The £ question: a monetary ‘federation’ or framework that could be workable for all parties. And more of that ilk.Surely the ‘benefits’ of the union are not all one way: namely coming to us here in Scotland. I don’t hear the case for why the union needs us.

  • Perhaps you should explain to him the likelihood is that his business would do even better in an independent Scotland due to the Scottish Gov having the necessary powers to tailor economic policy to meet Scotland needs? Appeal to his greedy side?

    • Absolutely – the best way to increase sales in a business is to reach out to and make offers to your lapsed customers. The best way to grow your economy is to find a way to get the unemployed (lapsed tax payers) back into the economy and spending in the local shops and buying services. The London and South East political agenda seems to be to make scapegoats of the poor and under educated but it is the system that creates poor and under educated people. One or two benefits cheats in amongst generations of families who’s livelihood have been ripped from them due to poor macro economic decision making does’t make for a scrounger culture.

  • Wrong questions.
    Do you agree that Scotland is a country ?
    If yes,then why do you want your government
    elected by people in another country ?
    If no,then end of discussion.

  • Well said, and well done. If more people could see those sorts of responses in the face of such a well laid-out argument, I’m sure we’d have many more like the corporate lawyer.

  • Gordon,

    Just exactly so!

    Two broad classes of people (it can be argued there are others) have a vested interest in “No” winning out – firstly, those like your man on the train who will be okay under either result and don’t care to risk change and, secondly, the pensioner who (erroneously) holds the view that he/she no longer has a material stake in the future economy (because they’re collecting money from the State and/or crystallised private pension arrangements).

    A separate but related point concerns the electoral prospects of the centre-right political group (aka Conservatives). Under the UK status quo their brand is toxic (for reasons that don’t need rehearsing) – within an independent Scotland they have the opportunity to (by definition) break with the EWNI Tories and completely re-cast the relationship with Scotland’s electorate; perhaps akin the seemingly old-fashioned Tory “Wets”. A much more positive future awaits for the “Scottish Conservatives” if only they have the courage and foresight to grasp it.

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