Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Break-up of the Union could hit Northern Ireland, warn business chiefs

Robinson adds voice to fears for fragile economy

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's business leaders have urged Scotland to vote No in tomorrow's referendum - warning that independence could damage our economy.

And Peter Robinson has expressed concern that a Yes vote could have a direct financial impact on households and businesses here.

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With the result of the historic poll still too close to call, the First Minister told the Belfast Telegraph that the economic implications of an independent Scotland cannot be ignored.

"As a unionist I fervently hope that the independence referendum can settle Scotland's place in the Union for generations to come.

"The decision is one for the people of Scotland, but it is right that voices have been raised across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in support of the Union.

"There has been a great deal of evidence provided on the economic case for the Union and the direct financial impact on households and businesses cannot be ignored.

"Business decisions will balance risk against reward, and it is not surprising that so many businesses have outlined their support for Scotland's current constitutional position when there are so many uncertainties in a move into the unknown."

Scottish independence: From oil and the pound to the Queen and tax - everything you need to know about the referendum 

Local food and construction firms are heavily involved in trade with Scotland. It is estimated that sales to Scotland from the province are worth at least £1bn annually.

However, if Scotland becomes independent from the rest of the UK, these businesses will find themselves having to deal with two separate regulatory regimes, two different tax systems, and possibly even an exchange rate.

Yesterday all the regional leaders within the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – including Colin Walsh of the Northern Ireland branch – came together to urge Scots to vote to stay within the Union.

CBI's president Sir Mike Rake has argued that the Union is the best way to grow the economy and boost jobs.

He pointed out that 70% of Scotland's exports were with the rest of the UK.

"The decision is rightly one for the people of Scotland to make – we hope you will vote to stay together," the statement urged. Nigel Smyth from CBI Northern Ireland added that while the referendum is a matter for Scottish voters, the message from its members is that they want the UK to stay together.

"We believe that Scotland staying within the UK is the best guarantee for creating jobs, driving growth and for raising living standards. We hope the people of Scotland vote to stay with us," he said.

Ann McGregor, chief executive Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, described Scotland as a "very important trading area".

"There is no doubt that a vote for Scottish independence could present many issues for Northern Ireland," she said.

"Scotland is a very important trading area for a large number of our businesses, particularly in the food and construction sectors. Most importantly, the uncertainty is slowing down vital decisions in businesses, particularly regarding investment. In the long-term this impacts on business growth and employment."

Ulster Farmers Union president Ian Marshall said his members were watching with interest to see what the outcome for them might be.

"Ultimately, it is a decision for the people who live in Scotland and it won't be until all the votes are counted that we will have a clearer idea of what the outcome might mean for farmers and farming in Northern Ireland," he said.

Meanwhile, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Wilfred Mitchell, said if Scotland becomes independent it will lead to "a renewed competitor close by, committed to undercutting the rest of the UK on corporation tax".

And he urged politicians to act over our corporation tax.

"Northern Ireland's politicians must seize the opportunity for which the FSB has fought long and hard; take the powers over corporation tax that we expect to see transferred in the coming weeks, and cut the rate. It is only through doing so that we will avoid being squeezed by the two larger economies of Scotland and Ireland, and we have a small window of time in which to do it," he said.

Scottish Independence Vote further reading

Queen will not be dragged into Scottish independence debate, Palace warns No camp

Scottish independence: Unionists in Northern Ireland can expect a border poll of their own in the not-too-distant future

Westminster elite in a panic as more voters are backing Scottish independence, says Alex Salmond

UK is the envy of the world, David Cameron tells Scots

Scottish independence: Scotland is different...you only have to watch Braveheart or read the 1707 Act of Union to see how different

Scottish 'yes' is a big no, no according to Peter Scudamore

Scottish independence: Whether Yes or No, we can learn lessons from the Scots

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Gordon Brown makes devolution vow in bid to spike Yes campaign guns 

Economist warns Scotland 'to be afraid of independence'

Scottish Referendum: Wait and see the outcome before dealing with any implications, says Martin McGuinness

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Pro-independence Yes campaign leads polls for first time in Scottish referendum battle

Scottish independence: Logic of staying in United Kingdom is slow to sink in 

Scottish independence: A matter for the head and heart

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Scottish independence: Trade and cultural links too strong to ever break

Scottish referendum: London sells us short in buying No vote 

Independence: What's the next step for Scotland and how will Northern Ireland people living there vote?

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