Economics of Independence Westminster Mismanagement

UK Government accused of intimidating companies to back No Campaign

Philip Dunne used MOD position to pressure suppliers

Philip Dunne used MOD position to pressure suppliers

The Financial Times’ front page yesterday exclusively revealed it has received evidence the Ministry of Defence is putting pressure on defence companies to intervene in the Scottish independence debate on behalf of the No Campaign.

Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, said: “I would like to see the defence industry in Scotland being a bit more upfront in explaining their concerns to their workforce and the people in Scotland and I urge them to do that at every opportunity.”

This is a frank and full admission that the minister responsible for defence procurement has pressured defence suppliers to support his political position.

Several senior defence executives told the FT that they were being urged by ministers and other senior officials to make negative statements about Scotland becoming a democratically self governed independent country.

The Westminster Government’s decision to put pressure on companies to speak out against independence comes amidst growing momentum in the opinion polls for a Yes vote in September.

Deft use of the dark arts
One senior defence executive told the FT UK officials were making “deft use of the dark arts” in pushing the industry to speak out against Scotland’s choice.

The defence industry and presumably many other companies have so far almost entirely resisted these fear tactics. However, senior staff in the defence industry are clearly alarmed by this behaviour so much so they felt the need to whistle-blow to the FT.  They are clearly worried about the commercial repercussions of more publicly condemning the UK Governments intimidation techniques.

The table turns
In the past the No Campaign has tried to cover up the fact that the business community is not flocking to support their ridiculous scare stories by saying that business people were afraid to speak out because they were afraid of the Scottish Government.  Business for Scotland has always dismissed this notion as political fiction.  The FT report is evidence that the UK Government is breaking the ministerial code by bullying and cajoling suppliers to make political statements against their will.

A track record of intimidation
Although Dunne is a Conservative Minister, the anti-independence parties have a track record of pressurising business in referendum campaigns.  Speaking in 1996, ahead of the referendum on devolution, Labour’s then Shadow Scottish Secretary George Robertson accused companies who opposed a Yes vote of betraying their country.

A track record of dialogue
Business for Scotland at the time of the devolution referendum met with hundreds of business people and gently persuaded them that devolution was not the scary, uncertain constitutional upheaval the Conservatives were claiming.

Many believe that Business for Scotland made the difference on the economic case for devolution (sound familiar?).

If business people really believe there is uncertainty they must challenge the UK Government to stop creating uncertainty.  Businesses must ask the UK Government to make clear statements on European Union membership and currency rather than creating potential uncertainty for political purposes.

The people of Scotland and the markets know the details of the independence proposition on offer from the Scottish Government.  But the UK Government is refusing to provide clarity for political purposes and as such is acting against the interests of the Scottish people.

Businesses must demand the UK Government make clear statements on the maintenance of the shared currency area and EU membership.   Only the UK Government as the member country can ask for clarification from EU on Scotland continued membership but they won’t.   They are causing uncertainty for political purposes, they are creating faux uncertainty in the hope that business people will be put off investing in Scotland and say so publicly.

Anti-independence Scottish MPs do this whilst drawing a salary and being responsible for representing and encouraging investment to Scotland. We have seen regular examples of MPs prioritising their own personal or political interests over those of the nation they serve.

It is only the Bank of England which has broken away from this position and decided on the proper and responsible route of continuing working on the technical aspects of maintaining the currency area after a Yes vote.

Business for Scotland has spoken to many senior business people including directors of FTSE 100 and 500 companies who are pro-independence but afraid to speak out or to ask the UK Government to clarify the uncertainties its Project Fear is creating.

Business for Scotland is extremely concerned that employers are being bullied to take a political stance against their own wishes by an increasingly desperate UK Government and wider No Campaign.

They must end this highly questionable practice immediately and an enquiry should be set up to investigate if or what laws governing public sector procurement and the ministerial code were broken.

Questions must now also be asked about what promises have been made and what pressure has been applied to make those small number of business people which have issued statements, some of which sound very much like No Campaign press releases, which clearly now must be taken with a pinch of salt by the people of Scotland.

BBC News – Scottish independence: MoD accused of pressing firms to back pro-UK stance 

If you run a business you should join Business for Scotland – Read More

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.


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