Businesses hungry for referendum data

Two in five small businesses say new data could sway their vote in the upcoming referendum, with a majority of Scottish business owners having sought out information to help them decide, new research shows.

The poll of 1,800 Scottish business owners, conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), also reveals that the referendum has influenced a business decision in one in five Scottish businesses during the last year.

The survey, conducted in April and May, shows while almost three quarters of businesses have searched for information to help them decide how to cast their vote, 58 per cent of those that had read the Scottish Government’s White Paper and 53 per cent of those that read the UK Government’s analysis papers, reported that they didn’t find them useful.

Almost three fifths (58 per cent) of FSB members categorised the debate so far as poor or very poor – with almost all respondents (97 per cent) highlighting the economic prospects of an independent Scotland as an important issue.

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Our members are hungry for information, but their appetite is not being sated by the campaigns. We’ll be working with the University of Edinburgh Business School to look at the issues, gather together available information and highlight areas of uncertainty.

“While we’re maintaining our neutral stance, both sides of the debate have a job to do if they’re looking to win over that 40 per cent of the small business vote who could be swayed by new, quality information.”

Professor Brad MacKay, of the University of Edinburgh Business School, said: “Initial results suggest that small businesses are more interested in practical, rather than macro-economic issues. They want clarity about plans for institutions and services important to their business, both in the event of independence and if Scotland stays with the UK.”

The main opportunity associated with independence is the chance to develop policies better suited to Scotland, cited by 41 per cent, while the main risks were a different tax and regulatory regime (59 per cent) and uncertainty during the transition (59 per cent).

While 54 per cent were 
excited about the potential of new opportunities, around 
87 per cent said they were 
concerned about potential risks.