CONFEDERATION of British Industry president Paul Drechsler has said the prospect of the UK voting to leave the European Union is a big cause for concern for businesses in Scotland.

The head of the employers’ association said a vote in favour of Brexit after 40 years in the EU would result in the UK making a leap into the unknown which was likely to result in the country experiencing a significant economic shock.

He said Scotland would be left facing challenges on multiple fronts at a time when the economy is reeling from the impact of the devastating downturn in the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Highlighting the fact the respected Fraser of Allander institute last week noted Scotland was lagging the UK and at risk of entering recession, Mr Drechsler said: “Why would we [while] at our most vulnerable take a risk that could present us with all sorts of challenges and a prolonged period of uncertainty?


“All the things I look at say exit would take us somewhere that would be less attractive, more unknown and very risky, so why do it?”

Speaking before addressing CBI members in Edinburgh, Mr Drechsler said a vote for Brexit could cast into doubt a range of things businesses rely on, including access to key export markets on the continent and a pool of skilled labour.

“If you look at what would happen in terms of taxation if we were out of the EU there’d be plenty to worry about, so it’s definitely a big cause for concern,” said Mr Drechsler.

He noted Scotland benefits from inward investment which membership of the EU helps to attract.

Asked about the possibility that a vote for Brexit against Scotland’s wishes could trigger a second referendum on independence for the county, he said: “This is a political issue, it would be an issue for the Scottish people. I think the last time round I’m sure I heard someone say this is a once-in-a-generation decision. It would be a pretty young generation if we had another referendum pretty soon.”

He added: “Uncertainty is bad for business and therefore I think the Scottish people have to decide what their priorities are.”

However, he said the people of Scotland could play a potentially decisive role in deciding the outcome of Thursday’s vote and avoiding the uncertainty a Brexit would entail.

“My assessment is the odds are 50:50 and if you care about the outcome your vote will count,” said Mr Drechsler adding: “50:50 means Scotland will play a vital role in the outcome so its vote really counts.”

Mr Drechsler believes the majority of businesses in Scotland thinks being part of the EU Is better for their business and better for Scotland. He urged the people running businesses, whatever their opinion, to encourage employees to vote, saying: “This is the most important decision for a generation and it is the most important decision for the next generation and most of the people I see arguing about this on the TV are not the next generation.”

A former chief executive of the Wates construction group, Mr Drechsler said the EU is not perfect. He clearly believes the UK is best placed trying to reform the organisation from within.

He praised the Scottish Government for working with businesses to promote growth. “I do see Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy first minister worrying about what I think are some of the right issues to worry about, which is the right strategy for Scotland in terms of business, investment, growth and jobs. They are talking to business, they are listening to business. That’s very encouraging so let’s focus on what we can control.”

He added: “We need more in terms of making sure we have a tax system that is attractive for investment, attractive for growth; we’ve got to work with the Scottish Government to get that right in terms of business rates and taxation and not penalise bigger businesses because they’re bigger and creating more jobs and opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Sir Angus Grossart has reportedly called for Brussels to deliver a “vow” style commitment to reform before Thursday’s vote. The “vow” saw pro-Union leaders promise extra powers for Holyrood before the Scottish independence referendum and was seen as crucial to the Better Together camp’s victory.