30/07/2013 08:57 BST | Updated 30/07/2013 12:14 BST

Scottish Businesses 'Fear' Engaging In Independence Debate, PwC Boss Says

File photo dated 25/1/21012 of a Saltire and the Union Flag. Scotland's position in the United Kingdom will come under scrutiny today as the government publishes legal opinion ahead of next year's independence referendum.

Scottish businesses are reluctant to engage in the political debate over Scotland’s independence due to “fear”, according to PwC’s UK chairman Ian Powell.

Speaking at the accountancy firm’s London HQ on Tuesday, Powell said PwC was opposed to Scottish independence.

“We’ve got a Scottish business and it seems to us that quite a lot of Scottish businesses don’t seem to want to get engaged in the debate at the moment whether its for fear or whatever the specific reasons, I don't know.

“From a PwC perspective, we believe in a United Kingdom and we believe that the right thing is you do have as big an economic unit as you can.”

“We haven’t gone out in Scotland yet [and said that], but that’s what we think as an organisation. “


Powell signaled that the firm would start to speak out more openly in support of the United Kingdom staying together as the Scottish referendum next September approaches.

“You will see us start to contribute to the debate...and you’ve also got to respect that we do operate in Scotland like other businesses in Scotland, and we need to make sure we get the balance right.”

A PwC spokesperson said: "The matter of independence is for the Scottish people. Many businesses we speak to are concerned about getting engaged in a political debate that might distract them from the number one priority of managing their businesses through a challenging economic environment.

"Clients are, however, starting to think about the implications for their businesses and the issues of which they need clarity and scenario planning."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Nationalist Party told the Huffington Post UK: Most companies don’t like to get involved in political debates of any kind. It’s not what they’re there for first and foremost as they’re running their businesses.

Business campaigns have sprung up based around the independence campaign, like the pro-independence Business For Scotland group. However, a recent poll by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce found that 58% of firms felt they did not know enough about the debate.

Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “For business, even more clarity will be required over the next 18 months about the business environment and fostering economic growth in Scotland. Our message to the politicians on both sides of the debate is that the Scottish economy must be at the centre of their considerations going forward.

Other polls of business opinion paint a mixed picture. According to a poll last December conducted by Ipsos MORI, 72% of businesses oppose Scotland's separation from the United Kingdom.