POLITICS
07/05/2014 07:01 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 07:59 BST

Scottish Independence: Most Businesses Outside Scotland Back United Kingdom

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
GLEN COE, SCOTLAND - MARCH 24: A Union Jack and Saltire flags blow in the wind near to Glen Coe on March 24, 2014 in Glen Coe, Scotland. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on September 18, 2014. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The majority of businesses outside Scotland want the country to remain in the UK, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

In a poll of almost 2,400 members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 85% said they thought Scotland should stay part of the UK and 11% said Scotland should become an independent country.

Respondents identified future currency arrangements as the most important issue for their business, with over a third (35%) of businesses stating a formal currency union would be in the best interests of the UK if Scotland became independent.

More than a quarter (28%) said Scotland should create its own currency if it votes for independence and 18% said it should join the euro.

The survey follows research by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) published last week which found 8% of firms had definite plans to move away from Scotland if it voted to leave the UK, while a further 10% said they were considering a move.

In the BCC survey, 91% of businesses outside Scotland said the independence debate has had no impact on business decisions to date.

The research saw 11% of firms report that the debate was having a negative impact on orders and sales, compared with 5% in August last year.

BCC director general John Longworth said: "Business opinion across the United Kingdom on the Scottish independence debate is far from unanimous. That's only logical as businesses have different interests, and different views, on our complex history of economic and political union.

"Businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain less than captivated by the intense debate unfolding north of the border. Yet they do have views on the potential impacts of a change in Scotland's relationship with the rest of the UK.

"In the event of a Yes vote, cross-border trading and currency arrangements loom large in businesses' thinking. If Scotland votes No, constitutional questions remain around the devolution of power and the distribution of public funding between nations.

"Business communities across the UK have diverse views on the Scottish independence debate. Yet one thing is for certain. Regardless of how Scotland votes in September, things will never be quite the same again."

Business leaders who oppose Scottish independence

The BCC said 2,381 businesses based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland responded to its survey between April 14 and 17.

Labour MP and shadow business minister Ian Murray said: "Hundreds of thousands of Scots are employed by firms based elsewhere in the UK, so it's important that the voice of these large employers is heard in this debate.

"Our UK single market means that businesses can sell their goods throughout the whole of the UK without any barriers between them and their customers. Why would we want to put that at risk? This survey confirms what some of Scotland's largest employers like Standard Life, RBS and Shell have made clear. Breaking up the UK would create huge risks and cost jobs in Scotland.

"The majority of businesses in the rest of the UK do not support a currency union. It would be bad for Scotland and bad for the rest of the UK. That's why it is off the table."

Almost two thirds (63%) of businesses told the BCC they favour reforms to the current arrangements for allocating public expenditure between the UK nations in the event of a no vote.

The SNP said this underlined the need for a yes vote "to ensure that Scotland can protect its budget". Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie said: "On top of unprecedented cuts we've already seen, senior figures at Westminster are committed to slashing another £4 billion from Scotland's public services - and this survey finds that businesses outside Scotland would pile further pressure onto the UK Government to do this.

"Businesses also stated that the referendum debate has had no impact on their business decisions - this blows away No camp attempts to scaremonger to the contrary. The biggest threat to UK business is Westminster's obsession with a referendum on EU membership that could see us ripped out of the European Union.

"It is no surprise that the survey finds that a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK is the preferred option of businesses. Businesses elsewhere in the UK know a refusal to share Sterling would see businesses south of the border faced with an extra £500 million in transaction costs. The inescapable truth is that a currency union is in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK."

Tony Banks, chairman of the pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said: "Scottish independence offers real advantages to everyone, not only in Scotland but across our shared markets in Europe. That independence doesn't equal isolation and businesses here are well aware of the opportunities they can gain.

"People who run businesses are not fools. They know, as I myself know, that an independent Scotland will give Scotland the brand a far greater opportunity to make its mark globally and to promote its goods and services across the world."

Scottish Conservative enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser said the threat of separation was causing "extreme tension" among employers in Scotland.

He said: "What is now becoming clear is it's a headache for the vast majority of businesses in the rest of the UK too.

"They don't want to break apart a system that works very well, and these are the people who know best.

"And a complete lack of clarity from the SNP about a range of factors like currency and regulation is the reason so many people are panicking about the prospect of separation."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said: "This survey leaves no doubt that UK businesses believe protecting the UK single market is best for everyone.

"As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from the economies of scale that come from sharing a single currency and regulatory framework. The best way to protect these shared links, and keep things like the special EU membership terms Scotland enjoys at present, is to remain part of the UK family."