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Scottish independence could turn it green

Friday, December 28, 2012 - 02:37

Dec. 28 - Scotland will hold a referendum on independence from Britain in 2014 but just how realistic are its chances of success when its main income source, North Sea oil and gas, is dwindling? Ivor Bennett reports on Scotland's new green energy hopes

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Kilts...whisky...and tartan Scotland may have a distinctive identity. But is independence a good idea for business? A recent poll showed over 70% of industry leaders think not. With less than 2 years until a referendum on a split from the rest of Britain, key factors like currency, tax and banking regulations are still undecided. A low corporate tax has been promised. But the Scottish director of Britain's main business lobby group Iain McMillan says any difference with the UK would be bad for business. SOUNDBITE IAIN MCMILLAN DIRECTOR CBI SCOTLAND, SAYING, "Our laws, our rules, our regualtions, our taxes, would differ form those south of the border in England. And that would make the conduct of business much more challenging between these two countries." Picturesque may be, but a financial centre Edinburgh is not. When it comes to banking, 90% of business lies south of the border. And a YES vote could trigger a brain drain. Scotland's biggest bank RBS has warned it may relocate. Gerry Devenney from pension advice firm Punter Southall says many of his clients could pack their bags too. SOUNDBITE (English) GERRY DEVENNEY, PRINCIPAL, PUNTER SOUTHALL, SAYING, "A good number of them have actually said they'll take their businesses south. They'll actually relocate and take all the jobs south of the border...so that means not only would Scotland be without jobs, they'd be without pensions. And demographically that's the last thing Scotland needs." SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER IVOR BENNETT SAYING, "It was architecture like this which earned Edinburgh the nickname 'the Athens of the North'. And if Scotland does go independent, the fear is that name could become apt again. But this time for a reason that's a lot less positive...the economy." The bid for independence rides on energy. An estimated 90% of Britain's North Sea oil is in Scottish waters. While revenues exceeded 11 billion pounds last year, output's dwindling fast. Production in 2011 dropped 18% - the sharpest decline in a decade. Scotland's renewable resources may be vast, but there's no guarantee they'll be as lucrative. One company voicing the concerns is Aggreko - the world's largest temporary power provider. It fears massive short term disruption but few other firms are as vocal. According to CEO Rupert Soames, the fear of retribution is keeping companies quiet. SOUNDBITE (English) RUPERT SOAMES, CEO, AGGREKO, SAYING, "Anyone who has dared open their mouths on the subject have brought down on themselves rains of bile and ire which are really very unpleasant." Long gone are the days of William Wallace and Braveheart. But Scotland's previous wars of independence haven't been forgotten. National pride's impossible to price and in the end that could be all that matters.

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Scottish independence could turn it green

Friday, December 28, 2012 - 02:37

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