There appears to be a steady stream of business people being wheeled out by the Better Togethers. Their message is that if Scotland were to go it alone they’d seriously consider packing up their Scottish based business and marching south (How many would consider staying in Scotland? How many would consider moving to the continent if UK leaves the EU?). More crap today from the Guardian and last week we had the rather predictable Standard Life scare story, which is basically an action replay of their 1997 threat just before the devolution referendum. Then we heard from top gits at Shell and BP who would obviously consider moving their rigs to the Thames and a BP boss cleverly observing that “Great Britain is great.” Oh, now that you put it like that, you’ve convinced me to drop this whole independence malarkey.
What is really at stake with these little scare stories? Is it business or politics? I’d strongly go with the latter. The Conservatives increase the chances of independence every time one of their number opens their ignorant, pompous mouth. Finally realizing this after the frankly embarrassing trip to Aberdeen the other week they’ve decided to get some of their mates in high places to begin issuing vague threats and make bullying noises on their behalf.
Does business really care? Unless Scotland begins to nationalize every industry in sight or begins to tax businesses to the max, both of which I would consider very unlikely, the history of big business shows great indifference to the politics of a market. Notoriously there are a number of famous companies that even continued to trade with Nazi Germany with IBM and Coca-Cola prime examples; IBM according to some providing the computing power to enable the Holocaust and Coca-Cola inventing Fanta for the wartime German market (strictly speaking Coca-Cola Germany was then separate from US parent). These two companies were far from unique and such practices continue to this day. Without the existence of Export Licenses you can be assured someone near you will be happily selling missile guidance systems to North Korea.
An independent Scotland that is almost assured of being wealthy, stable, with an educated and motivated workforce, and cash reserves to invest in infrastructure, is certainly not going to be any barrier to business. Those that do leave will upon reflection more than likely not be missed and soon replaced as a (home-grown?) competitor steps in to fill the gap. Such are the wonders of capitalism.