GLASGOW Aug 28 British Prime Minister David
Cameron will make the case for the economic benefits of
Scotland staying in the United Kingdom on Thursday as a divided
business community publicly take sides.
With three weeks to go until a referendum on independence,
200 Scottish business leaders, including Stagecoach head
Brian Souter and engineering tycoon Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers,
joined forces in a letter published in Glasgow newspaper The
Herald on Thursday backing Scotland's breakaway.
A day earlier, a group of 130 business leaders, among them
the heads of giants BHP Billiton, temporary power
provider Aggreko and HSBC bank, had signed an
open letter opposing independence, saying nationalists had
failed to make the business case for an independent Scotland.
Many companies, large and small, had previously refused to
take sides in the highly-charged debate.
A number of questions remain over the financial and economic
arrangements of an independent Scotland, including what currency
it would use, EU membership, and the future of North Sea oil.
Several recent polls have shown support for independence
pushing higher. But the most recent "poll of polls", on Aug. 15,
which was based on an average of the last six polls and excluded
undecided respondents, found support for a breakaway stood at 43
percent against 57 percent for remaining within Britain.
The pro-independence letter said the end of the 307-year-old
union with England would give Scotland the powers "to give our
many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an
increasingly competitive world".
"I think it would be good for the whole of Scotland...
we will be able to control our own financial affairs and
stimulate our own economy," Sandy Adam, chairman of Springfield
Properties Plc, told BBC Radio.
Cameron has taken a low-profile role in the debate, aware
that his privileged English background has limited appeal in
Scotland, where his Conservative party has only one of
Scotland's 59 seats in the London parliament.
But with nationalists starting to gain some ground in polls
before the Sept. 18 referendum, Cameron will make a rare foray
north of the border to argue Scotland is better off as part of a
large domestic market with a shared currency, taxes, and rules.
"This is one of the oldest and most successful single
markets in the world," Cameron will tell business leaders at a
dinner in Glasgow.
"Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the UK
than with the rest of the world put together...trade that helps
to support one million Scottish jobs."
The major British parties and businesses opposed to
independence argue Scotland is better off in the United Kingdom
and could instead be given further powers to its devolved
parliament to ease fears that policies made in London will
continue to dominate Scotland.
Scotland has had its own devolved parliament since 1999 and
can legislate on issues such as education, health, the
environment, housing, and justice.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Writing by Belinda Goldsmith,
Editing by Angus MacSwan)