Friday, 16 May 2014

The Referendum Debate: my Bona Fides

Those of you unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter will have noticed me getting particularly exercised about the forthcoming Independence referendum. Twitter is a great medium, but the 140 Character constraint is not best suited to nuanced political debate or for making and substantiating sometimes complex arguments; that's why you've been directed here I guess.

For the purposes of this debate I would define myself as a Scottish-based entrepreneur.  I was born in England, moved to Islay when I was 9 years old and spent my high-school years there (I retain a smattering of Gaelic as a result). I studied at Strathclyde University then worked in London and briefly the US before returning to Scotland in 2002 to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions.  I consider Scotland to be "where I come from" and I chose to return here because I love it, it's where I want to spend the rest of my life.

You'll see links on this blog to the companies I'm involved with.  M8 Group ( & and Endura are both successful Scottish based SMEs with turnover in the tens of £m's and enjoying healthy growth (both were previously Sunday Times Fast Track 100 listed). We employ nearly 200 people in the Livingston area as well as others in China and (in Endura's case) throughout the world.  It's relevant to my perspectives in this debate that we are exporters of physical goods; the Scottish market represents only about 5% of our combined turnover and in M8 Group's case c.90% of our sales are to customers in rUK ("rest of the UK").

I make no apologies for the fact that I have been inspired to speak out in this debate because, along with my fellow shareholders, we have carefully considered and researched the impact that an independent Scotland would have on our business and concluded it would be "a bad thing" for us and, by extension, our employees. I know many similar businesses feel the same way but are afraid to speak up for fear of a Nationalist backlash; in our case we have concluded that we have a moral duty to share our analysis with our employees and (at the risk of sounding pompous) anybody else who has the curiosity to have found their way to these pages.

I will try and keep this blog rational and level headed, to focus on factual points as far as possible because I think that is the most useful way I can contribute to the debate. That approach may be why I have been accused on Twitter of arguing out of self-interest (ironically from people arguing for "self-determination"); again I make no apologies for that given part of the "self-interest" is wanting my businesses to continue to thrive whilst remaining based in Scotland.  But let me be absolutely clear about this: as far as "self-interest" is concerned I am socialist in outlook and believe in wealth redistribution; I have never voted for a tax cuts or out of narrow self-interest.

I should also be clear that I am emotionally, instinctively, intuitively in favour of retaining the Union, my heart is against separatism.  I will attempt to focus on arguments of the head but I can't promise I will always succeed in keeping my heart out of it.

Before being inspired to by the Referendum Debate, I hadn't been active on this blog for a while. Scrolling through I realise now that a (completely non-political, possibly slightly mawkish) post I wrote over a year inadvertently explains some of the reasons why I love this country. If you need a light sorbet as relief from the political stodge, you can read it here


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your time and effort in writing these posts. They have been hugely helpful in picking apart some firm truths amidst all the heat of the arguments going on. I hope your businesses continue to flourish.

Eric said...

I have just found your blog via youtube and will certainly explore.
I am a scot who has lived down south working mostly in IT across Europe
I am one of those heart wants independence but Head says NO
Its great to find a a blog based on factual data and I hope that the data here in gets debated in a wider context.
Independence will not be a utopia..

If People of Scotland truly want independence then i respect that but they should understand the context and impact of that
Thanks for your contribution to the debate.