Raising the role of business in the referendum


We have now had the last session of Scottish Questions at Westminster before the Referendum on September 18.

One of the questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland raised the role of business in the referendum.

It is important to emphasise that this is a secret ballot and how an individual votes is their own affair. Employers and landlords have no say in how their employees and tenants vote. This referendum will be decided by us here in Scotland casting our vote. Every vote will count no matter where we live.

Given the importance of the decision and the irreversible nature of a yes vote, employees, investors and consumers are all entitled to know if there are consequences they need to consider before making their decision. That is why it is important that businesses feel free to inform the debate of how the referendum outcome could impact on them. They certainly deserve not to be bullied if they raise their concerns.

Defence ship builders benefit from EU procurement rules that allow the Government to restrict tenders to domestic shipbuilders. Currently, as Scotland is part of the UK, businesses here have benefitted from contracts for ships like the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

If Scotland were to vote to become a foreign country from the rest of the UK it would miss out on MOD contracts that are restricted. Clearly, those working for companies at risk of losing out need to know this so that they can consider it as part of their decision. It would be unfair for them to cast a vote without the information only to wake up to the consequences on September 19.

Locally, of course, many jobs are dependent on the investment made in bringing ashore oil and gas from under the UK continental shelf.

Any oil and gas left out there will pay no tax, support no jobs and contribute nothing to our energy supply balance of trade.

I, therefore, welcome the start this week of a consultation on tax reform for the UK continental shelf designed to come up with a scheme that maximises future production. It is important that all those with an interest in the subject take part in the consultation to ensure it is fully informed on the best solution.

The businesses that have grown up on the back of oil and gas production are now, in many cases, part of a global industry so transport links are very important to ensure they remain located in the North East.

For many of those travellers from Aberdeen there was the welcome launch less than two years ago of BA’s new route from Aberdeen to London City.

Now, without any consultation or announcement, BA have decided to drop the route in the winter timetable.

The first it was heard of was when constituents tried to book flights in late October. Had they not tried to access those flights they would not have been any the wiser.

Providing no explanation or warning does not look very professional. I have joined my colleague Malcolm Bruce MP in writing to BA asking them to reverse this decision.

Another company that is causing rightful frustration from constituents is BT Openreach.

While we can shop around for phone services, the vast bulk of the lines and exchanges are provided by BT Openreach.

Their engineers individually do a very important job keeping the services going especially when faults occur.

However, as a company they are failing to deliver timely connection for several sites of new buildings in the constituency.

What adds to the frustration is the lack of a useful timetable of when the line will finally be functional.

It would help me to pursue this issue if constituents affected could let me know of their experience good or bad in obtaining a phone connection.