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200 business leaders sign up to say Yes to independence

A TOTAL of 200 business people have backed independence in an open letter that aims to counter warnings by 130 industry leaders the plans would be bad for trade.

Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter, who has donated £1million to the Nationalists in the run-up to the referendum, engineering tycoon Jim McColl, the chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers, and Ralph Topping, the Scottish-based former chief executive of William Hill, lead the list of signatories to the document, which is published in today's Herald.

Read the list here

Other high-profile figures on the list include the Michelin-starred Gleneagles-based chef Andrew Fairlie.

It declares that independence would give the country the powers "to give our many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive world."

It adds they would provide "more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed."

Late on Tuesday evening, a letter was released from 130 business leaders, including the openly anti-independence HSBC chairman Douglas Flint; Andrew Mackenzie, the chief executive of BHP Billiton mining group; Audrey Baxter, executive chairman of Baxters Foods; and Simon Thomson chief executive of Cairn Energy, stating a Yes vote would have the opposite effect.

They described uncertainty over issues, including currency, regulation, tax pension, EU membership and Scottish worldwide exports as factors in being "bad for business".

However, the counter- arguments put forward by the Yes supporting business community suggest successive Westminster Governments have failed to pay heed to the interests of the economy north of the Border.

They cite "tax raids" on the North Sea oil industry by Labour and Conservative-led Governments as examples of how those in power in London are focussed on the short term.

It adds: "Scottish industry is often treated as a cash cow rather than a strategically important part of a more prosperous and fairer society."

As next year's General Election faces becoming a fight over whether Britain will remain in the European Union, the business leaders warned it was a "real possibility" and a threat to Scottish economic interests.

The document adds: "Scotland must look outwards to the world of opportunity that awaits us. A Yes vote is the business and jobs opportunity of a lifetime for this and future generations."

One surprising name backing the letter is Professor Nathu Puri, founder of Purico, a former Labour donor in the Midlands, backing Scottish independence as a mechanism for tackling the domination of the South East.

"The London-centricity of Britain's economy is unsustainable," he has said separately. "We must reindustrialise the nations and regions outside of South East England. We must rebalance the British economy by sector and geography to ensure sustainable economic growth.

"Scottish independence will be a major step forward towards that goal in the interests of not just Scots, but business and jobs in Wales, Northern Ireland, the Midlands and the north of England."

Other signatories include Sir Patrick Grant, the owner and managing director of Alness-based menswear outfitters Dalvey; former Scottish Enterprise chairman Sir Donald Mackay; and Sir George Mathewson, who now heads asset management firm, Toscafund, but was previously the chairman and chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland; and the Scottish financier Angus Tulloch.

Other names include David Urquhart, the founder of David Urquhart Travel, and Sandy Orr, who with his son David sold their Mint hotel chain for £600million in 2011.

Other backers are Falklands veteran Tony Banks, the boss of Balhouse Care, Scotland's largest private sector care home group; Neil Clapperton, the managing director of Springbank Distillery; and Paddy Crerar, the chief executive of Crerar Hotels.

Glasgow cash and carry tycoon Mohammed Ramzan is among the backers. He is the brother of former Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar and the uncle of Scottish Labour's deputy leader Anas Sarwar, chief coordinator of the party's referendum campaign.

Tony Banks, chairman of pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said: "There are now more than 2,500 members of Business For Scotland, from all across Scotland in all sectors, from large plcs to smaller, family-owned and micro-businesses, which are the lifeblood of the economy.

"More and more business people are moving to Yes after looking at the facts and figures. Our members know Scotland's balance sheet is relatively stronger than the UK's, but we have the potential to be stronger.

"We know Scotland will thrive as an independent country, because key economic decisions will be made by those who truly understand and care most about our Scotland's distinctive economic needs, that's the people who live and work here."

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