Scots independence good for Northern Ireland, business leaders hear

The national flag of Scotland.
The national flag of Scotland.

Scottish independence would bring new opportunities to the rest of the UK and Ireland, an audience of business leaders in Belfast will be told on Thursday.

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s enterprise minister, will set out his ambition for co-operation among the countries at the annual British-Irish Chamber of Commerce conference.

Mr Ewing will highlight figures from 2012 showing Scottish exports to the rest of the UK were estimated at £47.6 billion, while Scotland’s market for business from the rest of the UK is estimated to be worth £59.4 billion.

He will also point to existing Irish-Scottish work on energy to establish an offshore electricity network and a cross-border collaboration to build on offshore renewable energy potential.

“In an independent Scotland our closest relationships will be with our nearest neighbours and this will lead to new opportunities for Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in terms of trade and investment,” he will say.

“Our status as an independent member of the European Union will ensure free movement of goods, people and services and avoid any barriers to trade with the rest of the UK or the Republic of Ireland.”

His message comes as British ministers warn they are unlikely to accept Scottish Government plans to keep using sterling as currency after a vote for independence in the referendum on September 18. The position is dismissed by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as a bullying tactic.

Mr Ewing will tell the conference: “While our success in increasing international exports can be clearly seen from our trade relationship with the Republic of Ireland, which in total received £815 million of Scottish exports in 2012, we know we can do so much more with independence.

“Scotland’s economy is strong and diverse. With the powers of independence, future Scottish governments will be able to focus investment at home and overseas, we will be able to give more targeted support to companies wishing to export for the first time or increase their existing level of exporting.

“Scottish independence is not about walking away from the UK. It’s about being treated as equals and working together with other nations in the UN, in Nato, in the European Union and organisations like the British-Irish Council.

“We need to work together as equal partners and have our own economic and social powers, rather than leaving it in the hands of a Westminster system that all too often does not suit our needs and priorities.

“We are clear that membership of the EU is the best international economic framework for us to benefit from the economic and social gains from independence.”

Other speakers will include the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and director general of the Northern Ireland Office Julian King.