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Now is the time to speak out on financial risks of independence

AS MY recent BA early morning flight from Glasgow touched down at London City Airport, my thoughts fast forwarded to September.

Not long to go until the "historic event".

In September I will be there, at the crack of dawn. Yes, I will be on the first tee at Gleneagles as Europe takes on the USA for the Ryder Cup.

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Great Britain and Ireland were regularly crushed by the USA before the Europeans joined forces with us in 1979, and since then we have edged the USA in victories.

Yes, even at golf we have been better together!

Hopping onto the Docklands Light Railway and into the City of London it is the same faces that I have seen every week for the past decade. Regular commuters, like me, who choose to live in the north but whose work takes them south.

I wonder how many of us will be making the same journey when the next Ryder Cup is in the UK in four years' time?

Much will depend on how the independence referendum goes the week before the Ryder Cup. If it is a Yes vote then certainly the Scottish Westminster MPs will not be doing so, and I suspect that many of the business commuters on the 90 daily BA flights between Scotland and London will have chosen to relocate. A pity because England is Scotland's biggest export market - we export twice as much south of the border as we do to the rest of the world combined.

My business life has always been in investment management. We do that really well in Scotland. We punch above our weight, accounting for half a trillion pounds, that's 11 per cent of all assets managed in the UK, which is itself the second largest investment centre in the world.

The debate to date on independence has been politically and emotionally charged. Many business leaders in Scotland have understandably been reluctant to put their heads above the parapet for fear of upsetting key stakeholders or being attacked by cyber-bullies.

But this is too important an issue for all the people of Scotland for business folks to keep quiet for fear of political attack. It is the right time to speak up publicly.

In the fund management world the first principle I was taught was investment spread - don't put all your eggs in one basket. By flying solo that principle goes out the window as Scotland would be standing alone without the diversity of financial infrastructure, protections and regulation that has served the UK so well.

Our industry and its customers are protected by a regulatory regime and financial infrastructure that is the envy of others throughout the developed world. Of course, we can always replicate central banks, regulators, compensation schemes and the other complex regimes that we have in the UK, but with huge costs.

Pension regulation and protection will have to be reconsidered as well as the taxation and currency system. Clearly two sets of regulatory and tax regimes will lead to higher costs which have to be paid for by savers, investors and pensioners and will without doubt leave them worse off.

Financial services and investment management play a big part in the Scottish economy. It would be devastating if all that had been built up over hundreds of years was put in jeopardy by a business community too scared of political bullying to come clean on the potential consequences of going it alone.

Staying together, under "devo max", which is now inevitable if there is a No vote is the best of all worlds. We truly are "better together". But if the business community does not speak up now about the pitfalls ahead there may well be only a handful of southern commuters on those BA flights in four years' time. The rest will probably be living and paying their taxes in England.

Douglas Ferrans is the former chairman of Investment Management Association and former chief executive of Insight Investment Management

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