Matthew Anderson

I recently debated at an Actuaries business event in Edinburgh. The debate was entitled “EU Referendum: Risk and Uncertainty”. Those words - risk and uncertainty - sum up the challenge of leaving the European Union and maintaining economic success.

We have had forty years of peace and prosperity within the European Union. To a significant degree, our success is due to a complex union with our European neighbours.

There is a good reason why institutions such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England and the Fraser of Allander Institute exist. They are there to give us numbers we can trust, or at least believe are the best possible attempts to make accurate forecasts of the future. They provide numbers and forecasts we can build plans and predictions around to mitigate risk and uncertainty.

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Those advocating leaving the EU claim they are putting our own country, economy and people first. This I utterly reject. If we really are considering what is best for jobs, our economy, trade and prices, the numbers point only one direction: retaining membership of the EU.

Jobs here in Scotland heavily rely on the EU, with a quarter of a million linked to trading in the single market. Threatening these jobs by quitting Europe would have a significant impact on Scottish society and our economy. It would have negative ripple effects across other organisations and sectors, as seen in the Institute for Fiscal Studies recent report on the likely shrinking of the UK economy due to EU exit.

Freedom of movement across the EU also helps us plug valuable skill-gaps, across sectors such as healthcare, technology and education. Indeed, roughly 5 per cent of the NHS is staffed by EU workers, and is much higher in some areas.

The Leave campaign are utterly wrong on immigration. It is not a zero sum game on jobs, because new people coming here, bringing skills and energy, is part and parcel of a growing economy. The proof is that while large numbers of people are coming to the UK from other EU countries and much further afield to work, more UK nationals are in employment than ever before. We also know from HMRC figures that migrants from single market countries contribute some £2.5 billion net to the UK exchequer. Of course there are areas of housing shortage, but the answer to that is to streamline our planning processes and build more houses.

In any event, if the Brexiteers’ problem is immigration, leaving the EU is demonstrably not the answer. Norway and Switzerland pay dearly for access to the single market, have no say whatever over the rules, and both have far more EU migrants in their countries per head of population than the UK does.

The fear of immigrants, singling out particular nationalities, that has been whipped up by Leave must rank as one of the tawdriest campaigns in UK political history. It surely has no part to play in a modern, forward-looking Scottish economy and society.

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And, of course, freedom of movement works both ways.

For example, through the Erasmus+ programme young Scots benefit from more than 150 EU-funded projects to boost skills, employability, and provide opportunities to study, train and work abroad. And tens of thousands of Scots currently work and live in EU countries.

EU membership also gives valuable job protections, such as employment rights, maternity and paternity leave and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation or ethnicity.

For the UK economy, the EU single market has meant positive annual UK GDP growth since 1993, except 2007/8 (but, we all know that story), with exports of UK goods to the EU increasing on average by 3.6 per cent each year since the millennium. Significantly our trade with EU countries has increased 50 per cent due to the European Union. This growth story translates into GDP Net Gain of 2 per cent per annum in the future.

In a direct way, Scotland has also benefitted from EU regional investments, such as €477 million for research, SME competitiveness, shift to a low-carbon economy, and environmental protection and resource efficiency. As well as £10 million EU funding for Scotland’s Broadband rollout and £18 million for renewable energy projects in Orkney. These demonstrate tangibly how the EU is contributing investment towards economic development.

For Scotland alone, the EU is the top destination for international exports, worth £11.6 billion, this includes the 500 million bottles of whisky we export throughout the EU each year.

Read more: EU referendum - UK's internal stability is also at stake in Remain or Leave vote

This is too big an issue to use as a protest against a Tory government - voting Remain is voting for Scotland's best interests.

No-one on the Remain side claims that the EU is perfect, or that it doesn’t need reform. But the same goes for the UK, or indeed any country or international organisation. But the obsessive efforts of Leave to portray everything about it as bad are juvenile and plain wrong.

All of the numbers and facts reveal that if we really do have the interests of putting our own country, economy and people first, the numbers stack up in one direction: the risk and uncertainty stacks up on the side of leaving the EU. The evidence is unequivocal. Trust the numbers and vote Remain.

Matthew Anderson is a Member of the Advisory Group - Scotland Stronger in Europe, Vice President of Edinburgh-based Unicorn ARC, Visiting Academic, Aberdeen Business School (MBA programmes), formerly British Army Officer.