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Businesswomen go for No vote

A SURVEY of women in business has found that 70 per cent intend to vote no in the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, with concern over the economy cited as the biggest barrier to a yes vote.

The poll of the Women in Business Network, run by Edinburgh law firm Tods Murray, found the economy is the single biggest factor which will determine voting intentions on September 18.

And with continued uncertainty over issues such as the currency an independent Scotland would adopt, network champion Agnes Mallon said members feel there are still "too many risks" associated with voting yes.

The online survey captured the views of more than 150 members, representing over 30% of the network. It was carried out shortly before Tods Murray hosted a "conversation" between deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon and radio journalist James Naughtie.

The capacity event allowed members to put questions to Ms Sturgeon, with issues such as how family and working life will be affected in the event of a yes vote, as well as the economy.

Equality, energy, defence, welfare, pensions and Scotland's relationships with the UK and the European Union were among other policy areas members said they will weigh up before voting.

Ms Mallon, a private client solicitor with Tods Murray, said: "From speaking to members, particularly on the night of the event, the biggest concern was the unknown and the risks that came with that.

"It is just not knowing the answer to things that is at the forefront of most people's minds. [There were] too many risks that they had concerns about without knowing answers.

"For a lot of people that was pushing them into the no camp for the moment, particularly things like the economy and currency."

The Tods Murray network, which was established in 2009, draws the bulk of its members from the private sector, ranging from senior executives at major financial companies to small business owners. The public and third sectors are also represented.

Its online survey, carried out in March and April, revealed a high level of political engagement, with 95 per cent saying they are certain to vote, compared with the national average of 80 per cent.

Ms Mallon conceded the outcome of the poll had not been "particularly surprising" after noting the concerns members had raised during the evening.

But she emphasised there had been strong interest from the network in hearing what Ms Sturgeon had to say, as evidenced by the fact there was a capacity attendance at the event.

Ms Mallon said that its members in the financial sector had been keen to put questions to the minister, and added: "We still have a little bit to go as regards appeasing those concerns, although some of our members are from the third sector and I think they certainly got more positive responses to their concerns.

"But I think for the purely business people there is still more information and answers needed."

The law firm is planning to hold a further event featuring Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson, the leaders of the Scottish Labour and Conservative parties in Scotland, in conversation with Mr Naughtie, after which members will be surveyed on their intentions again.

Maggie Stanfield, spokeswoman for pro-independence network Business for Scotland, said: "Our experience is simply that the number of women in business within our own network who support what we're doing - and you probably need to look at the website to see them - is eminently clear.

"I've heard the argument that women may take a bit longer to make up their minds. I don't think anyone knows for certain whether that's true or not, but I think women in business are seeing the advantages and the opportunities that independence can offer."

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