Wednesday, 3 July 2013

SMEs give backing to Scottish independence

Survey blow for Business Secretary Vince Cable
More than half of Scotland's small businesses back Scottish independence, a survey reveals.

The findings follow research by AXA Business Insurance, part of the AXA Group, a worldwide leader in financial services.

The research, carried out last month, found 52 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Scotland favoured independence while only 33 per cent supported remaining part of the United Kingdom.

The survey comes as the UK government launched yet another paper warning Scots of the dire consequences should they vote for independence in September 2014.

Launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable in Glasgow, the paper claims independence would create barriers which would affect trade with the rest of the UK and thus put jobs at risk.

However, the AXA study, which questioned around 500 SMEs across the UK, revealed that one in four (25 per cent) of all those questioned believe that independence would be a good thing for small businesses in Scotland, while 45 per cent believe it would not. The remaining 30 per cent are not sure either way.

But, says AXA, when it comes to businesses based in Scotland, the number in favour of independence doubles to 52 per cent, while only one in three feel independence would not be a good thing for Scottish SMEs.

South of the border, in England, 43 per cent of SMEs think independence would be bad for their contemporaries in Scotland, while in Wales this number is 59 per cent.

The study also revealed that Scottish SMEs are more negative about current government spending cuts than SMEs based in England, although those in Wales are the most unhappy about the effect these may have on their business.

However, a larger percentage of SMEs in Scotland than in England feel that the current low interest rates provide a positive outlook for their business.

The results come on the back of the AXA Optimism Index which last week revealed that, while levels of optimism were riding high right across the UK, SMEs in Scotland were the most upbeat about their futures.

Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, says,"It is clear from our research that this is an issue that is very much front of mind for small businesses.

"SMEs have a lot of business critical issues to manage at the moment and the uncertainty around a possible independent Scotland will only add to those concerns.

"Regardless of the outcome of the vote, it is important that small businesses are looking at every eventuality and ensuring that their business is prepared for the vote to go either way."

Business for Scotland, which is made up of hundreds of Scottish business owners who support independence, welcomed the survey findings.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, the owner of the social media and sales & marketing consultancy Intelligise, and founding member of Business for Scotland, said, "We believe that the AXA survey, if anything, underestimates the support for independence within Scottish SMEs.  Business for Scotland's own polling has consistently found SME business to be more supportive of independence than the population as a whole.

"This is because people who run their own businesses are used to examining the facts, evaluating their options and making their minds up more quickly. This survey therefore gives the best indication so far of the likely direction of travel of public opinion within Scotland as a whole, when we get closer to the real decision time in September 2014."

The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with more than 163,000 employees serving 102 million clients in 57 countries.

In the UK, AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth, AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary, AXA Personal Direct and Partnerships, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 12,000 staff in the UK.

Check out the AXA Group here, and Business for Scotland here.

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