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Weir chief claims investment hiatus would follow Yes vote

ONE of Scotland's top company chiefs has claimed investment decisions will face a "substantial hiatus" in the event of a Yes vote in September.

RIVALS: Weir Group chief Keith Cochrane, left, and Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers, right, attended  a conference on Scotland's future. Picture: Gordon Terris
RIVALS: Weir Group chief Keith Cochrane, left, and Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers, right, attended a conference on Scotland's future. Picture: Gordon Terris

But a rival insisted that the arguments against independence were exaggerated and urged the business community "not to be fooled."

Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the Weir Group, refused to be drawn on whether the company would consider relocating its head office from Glasgow, saying he simply did not yet have the facts.

He was addressing a conference on Scotland's future hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland in Edinburgh.

He said: "Until the independence negotiations, we won't know what the outlook will be and what it will mean for businesses.

"What I do know is that it will create a substantial hiatus in future investment. I know Weir would be very cautious in committing to new projects until we are certain of the answers to some basic questions like what currency arrangements an independent Scotland will have."

He added: "That is not a ­statement I make lightly, but I am certain I will not be alone and even after negotiations are settled, foreign investors may be wary of committing to Scotland for a couple of years as they wait to see how the newly independent economy performs."

Mr Cochrane said his firm's Scottish operations ran at a loss that was offset by profits made elsewhere.

"At Weir, we estimate in 2013 the changes to corporation tax suggested by the Scottish Government would have saved us approximately £400,000 but the flexibility offered by UK group relief is worth almost nine times that figure - demonstrating why the tax system should be looked at in the round."

Asked if Weir headquarters would remain in Scotland following a Yes vote, Mr Cochrane said: "I cannot give you an answer to that question. The honest answer is I don't know."

However, another leading ­industrialist, Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers, accused the UK Government and the No Campaign of peddling doubt and fear, and argued that there was no doubt Scotland could make its way in the world.

He claimed that comments by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on currency union had been grossly misrepresented by the No campaign, adding: "Don't be conned by this subterfuge."

Asked if he would consider moving back to Scotland if the country becomes independent, he said he would not want to give up his home in Monaco but added: "I would consider coming back as a domicile."

The UK Government's anti-independence information campaign has entered its final phase, with a 52-page summary titled United Kingdom, United Future: Conclusions Of The Scotland Analysis Programme.

The document summarises more than 1,400 pages of analysis and the opinions of hundreds of experts and organisations on what a ­separate Scotland could mean for individuals, businesses and other organisations.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has dubbed it "Project Fact" - a reversal of Better Together's unofficial nickname "Project Fear".

He said: "People need to be informed about the consequences of the Scottish referendum. That's why we have undertaken the most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of Scotland's place in the UK ever attempted.

"You might call it Project Fact - over 1,400 pages of analysis citing hundreds of independent experts and organisations.

"The conclusion is clear: almost every aspect of life in Scotland is enhanced and improved because we are part of the UK. That's why we will share these conclusions with people in Scotland through the UK Government's public information campaign, with a booklet going to every home in Scotland over the next few months."

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