No industry consensus as campaigns enter final fortnight
By Dave Hunter
WITH just a fortnight to go until Scotland heads to the polls, the licensed trade remains divided on whether or not independence would be positive or negative for the industry.
In the past fortnight more than three hundred business people – including prominent figures in the licensed trade and drinks industries – have publicly taken sides in the debate.
However, there seems to be little consensus ahead of the September 18 vote.
Writing in this issue of SLTN, Beppo Buchanan-Smith, owner of the Isle of Eriska Hotel in Argyll, argues that the industry would be better-served by Scotland remaining in the UK.
“The Better Together campaign has been maligned for its attitude towards the referendum,” writes Buchanan-Smith.
“However, I strongly believe that we are both more secure and stable in the current position and that the risk outweighs the potential benefits to Scotland.”
On the opposing side, chef Andrew Fairlie put forward his case for independence, saying increased powers in areas such as VAT would benefit the industry.
“I sincerely believe we can do so much more with the full powers of a normal independent parliament,” he writes.
More than a hundred business people recently signed an open letter declaring that the business case for independence had not been made.
This was followed by two hundred business people declaring support for the Yes campaign.
Among the individuals backing independence was Neil Clapperton, managing director of Springbank Distillers, who argued that the whisky industry could be damaged if the UK leaves the European Union.
“The biggest threat to the whisky industry comes from the in-out EU referendum the UK is planning, and the fact that this could close EU influence in getting whisky into foreign markets,” he said.
However, senior figures from other whisky producers, including Ian Macleod Distillers, Inver House Distillers and Burn Stewart, all sided with the Better Together campaign.
As well as Fairlie and Chapperton, the Yes campaign received backing from individuals including Derek Mallon, operations director at the Restaurant Group, Crerar Hotels CEO Paddy Crerar and Marcliffe Hotel owner Stewart Spence.
Those arguing that remaining in the UK would be best for business included Townhouse Collection chairman Peter Taylor, James Mortimer of Lynnet Leisure Group and G1 Group chairman Brian McGhee.
• See SLTN independence referendum special.