Orion has made its name on the back of the gregarious Scottish engineer and their fearless approach to working in the world wherever someone has drilled a hole. Equipped with sun cream and the odd dram, Sottish engineers are a match for anyone.
This week, while the Scottish Parliament enjoys its Easter recess, our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is doing her bit by travelling to the sunny shores of California.
While there she told an audience at Stanford University about Scotland’s place in the world and signed many pieces of paper, including a joint agreement on climate change with the governor of California, Jerry Brown. This is something I hope carries more weight than some of President Trump’s executive orders, particularly those looking to reverse some good environmental work by the previous administration.
Back in Scotland, the debate over a second independence referendum has continued, with opposition parties calling for the SNP to spend more time on their day job of running the country. As business leaders, we agree with this sentiment, particularly as dour, new Scottish GDP figures recently pointed to a country on the brink of a recession.
Despite this, constitutional, rather than policy or economic, considerations continue to rule the day in Scotland. On the question of independence, I believe the SNP is taking a gamble and I fear the big win is not going to come. I think people are fed up of referenda with the uncertainty and divisiveness they foster. I know of a huge investment that is not taking place in the North due to the uncertainty of another referendum!
The excuse for the referendum is the SNP wanting Scotland to remain part of the European Union, a position I ideally agree with, but for different reasons.
Mine first – the European was set up as a political union to stop Germany and France fighting, it has succeeded has it not? Millions lost their lives in the in the two world wars and we have avoided another by working better together. The fact that Arron Banks, a multi-millionaire, bought the UK out of Europe by funding UKIP who told a pack of lies to the electorate is deplorable. Let’s remind ourselves that the biggest lie was there would be an increase in funding for the NHS if we left Europe! BS!
So Nicola is using Brexit as a reason for another referendum. She wants to re-join Europe independently once the UK leaves. The fact that all 27 member states would have to agree, with a lot of them having their own country within a country independence issues, is a non-starter anyway. But if joining the EU ticks the referendum box – lead on MacDuff.
Let’s look at the hypocrisy of wanting to join a bigger group – it throws the independent tag out of the window for starters?
Unhappy with being ruled by the Tories out of a London Parliament they would find it acceptable to be ruled by a Parliament even further away in Brussels?
The SNP manifestly are against nuclear weapons and that’s another reasons for getting away from the rest of the UK. France is one of the five “Nuclear Weapons States” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. France was the fourth country to test an independently developed nuclear weapon in 1960, under the government of Charles de Gaulle. The French military is currently thought to retain a weapons stockpile of around 300 operational nuclear warheads, making it the third-largest in the world. The weapons are part of the national Force de frappe, developed in the late 1950s and 1960s to give France the ability to distance itself from NATO while having a means of nuclear deterrence under sovereign control.
For industry, I believe many of the key economic issues currently faced by Scotland will not melt away if we ever become independent. Let’s take the issue of power generation, for example. If Scotland divorces itself from the UK, we may no longer have access to the direct import/export connections with the likes of France, Ireland and the Netherlands.
I go back to what the business community wants: certainty. The Brexit process presents its own challenges and the last thing industry leaders want to contend with at this sensitive time are any political machinations between London and Edinburgh over indyref2. Unfortunately, the SNP’s desire for yet another referendum is leading to another period of uncertainty that is bad for business.
For Orion Group, we are proudly Scottish but want to continue to enjoy the links we have with the continent and the rest of the world. We have both feet planted in aspects of power and utilities, nuclear and other areas of heavy industry. The relationships we have remain strong but we do want government backing and a government that is respected globally.
The Brexit card has unfortunately been dealt and in this case I believe our interests are better served within the UK, a nation with reach and a track record of success, thanks in no small part to the endeavours of Scots. Our nation is best served by not retreating into ourselves, but embracing the clout offered by the UK which, for all its faults, still remains one of the great powers in the world.
As the First Minister said in her Stanford speech, it is true that we have the family connections, history and friendship to share with the world. But this shouldn’t blind us to the connections we share with our fellow citizens across the UK and the benefits Scotland has enjoyed as part of the Union.