SCDI backs remaining in EU as Scottish Chambers survey reveals 68% of businessmen and women want to stay in

THE Scottish Council for Development and Industry will support continuing UK membership of the European Union, after seeking members’ views, emphasising nearly half of Scotland’s exports and 336,000 jobs north of the Border depend on EU trade.

SCDI announced its stance as Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s final pre-referendum poll revealed that 68.3 per cent of Scottish businessmen and women plan to vote for the UK to remain in the EU on June 23.

This is well ahead of a corresponding figure of 54 per cent for the UK as whole. Opinion polls of the UK public have signalled that the vote could be close, and sterling has been weighed down by fears of a so-called Brexit outcome.

The latest 68.3 per cent support among the business community north of the Border for continuing EU membership is down only marginally from 69.4 per cent in Scottish Chambers’ previous poll in February.

The proportion of Scottish businessmen and women planning to vote to leave the EU rose to 22.9 per cent from 19.2 per cent in the previous survey. Eight per cent did not know how they would vote. And 0.8 per cent said they would not vote.

Scottish Chambers highlighted the poll’s findings that individuals were strongly committed to their voting preferences.

Support for remaining in the EU was stronger among Scottish exporters. The poll found that 71 per cent of exporters supported continuing membership of the free trade zone. A majority of non- exporters, 63.9 per cent, also backed remaining in the EU.

SCDI has decided to support continued UK membership of the free trade bloc following a survey, open to its full membership, undertaken in the wake of the announcement of the proposed new settlement for the UK within the EU negotiated by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The SCDI said it had also found “clear support” for remaining in the EU when it engaged members in extensive discussions, including a full membership survey, in preparing a broader policy blueprint published late last year, entitled From Fragile to Agile.

Ross Martin, chief executive of SCDI, said: “Having listened carefully to the views of our members, we believe that Scotland’s economy is best served by the UK’s continued membership of the EU.

“Today, some 45 per cent of Scotland’s exports and 336,000 jobs depend on trade with EU countries, and many of Scotland’s cities and regions, and businesses and educational institutions have deep links with counterparts across the EU.”

SCDI represents about 1,200 organisations. These include global corporations, small and medium- sized enterprises, public sector bodies and educational institutions, professional associations and trade unions, faith groups and charitable and social economy sector organisations.

The business organisation revealed that members were concerned that leaving the EU would lead to reduced influence over key policies, such as pan-European energy networks, as well as reduced funding, for example for research and development or regional and social development.

Members also expressed worries about reduced knowledge exchange in business and education. SCDI said: “In SCDI’s view, the EU is an essential foundation for Scotland’s international trade and investment.

“It aims to enable the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, reducing regulatory barriers and developing common standards.

“People from the EU supply key skills in the Scottish economy and a significant and growing population at our world-class educational institutions.”

SCDI added: “The EU is now the main proponent of trade agreements and a successful defender of trade interests at the World Trade Organisation.” Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said of the findings of her organisation’s latest poll: “With the Scottish elections over and less than 50 days to go until the electorate decides the UK’s status within the European Union, both campaigns are ramping up their visibility and messaging to secure the business vote.

“From a Scottish perspective, of those surveyed, a high number of businesses, 68.3 per cent, support the option to remain within the European Union.”

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