The National:


“The spin being applied to this is ridiculous – Scotland is a tiny market for Britain’s largest companies so of course *they* would be fine” – Unionist blogger Kevin Hague tries to undermine Ipsos MORI poll revealing that majority of Britain’s biggest businesses agree an indy Scotland would not be “a significant risk” to their company. [Hague tweet, October 2 2020]


Foreign investment in Scotland continued at record levels during the 2014 independence referendum. This new poll of Britain’s business leaders is proof that Scottish independence is only a matter of time, whatever the usual suspects say.


Ipsos MORI is the third largest market research firm in the world with over 5000 business clients. In 2019 it had a revenue in excess of £2 billion. On October 2 2020, Ipsos Mori revealed new polling data which the company headlined: “Leaders of Britain’s biggest companies unfazed by possibility of Scottish independence.” This caused pro-Unionist commentators to seek ways of undermining the Ipsos MORI findings.

READ MORE: Scottish independence is inevitable and nothing to worry about, UK CEOs agree

The Ipsos MORI poll was actually its annual survey of the views of Britain’s so-called "Captains of Industry". The latest poll found that only 22% of leaders of Britain’s biggest businesses believed that “if Scotland became an independent country, it would be a significant risk to my company”, versus 54% who disagreed and 21% who had no opinion. Most (95%) were confident that “my company would adapt to the consequences if Scotland became an independent country”.  That seems fairly definitive.

According to Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland: “This survey shows that the leaders of Britain’s biggest businesses are relatively relaxed about the potential implications of Scottish independence for their companies, viewing it as something they will adapt to if necessary."

Predictably, this outraged pro-Unionist commentators such as Kevin Hague, a former management consultant and entrepreneur. 

Hague dismissed the much respected Ipsos MORI poll of senior UK business leaders as “spin”, arguing that because Scotland represented such a tiny market for Britain’s largest firms it was possible to ignore independence as a threat to the company, even though (in Hague’s view) independence would “be hugely damaging for investment and employment in Scotland” as a whole.

Hague’s refrain was taken up on twitter by John Ferry (a former LibDem parliamentary candidate) who tweeted that 70% of FTSE companies’ revenues are earned outside of the UK, so Britain’s biggest firms would “see only a marginal impact from a post-secession of the Scottish economy”.

Neither Hague nor Ferry offered an proof of their assertion that independence the Scottish economy would automatically be “hugely damaging for investment and employment”. The best benchmark we have is to look at foreign direct investment (FDI) into Scotland in 2014, at the time of the first referendum. If firms were indeed worried by Scottish independence, they would likely withhold FDI.

In fact, according to the annual EY survey, Scotland attracted 80 FDI projects in 2014 -roughly similar to the 82 in 2013, which was a record number despite the ongoing referendum debate. In 2014, Scotland was second only to London in attracting inward investment overall, which hardly suggests companies were worried about independence.

In fact, the only factor affecting FDI into the UK or Scotland in recent years is the Brexit vote. The 2019 EY survey found that 15% of international investors normally polled had put UK investment plans on hold as a result of the vote to leave the EU.


Is there anything in the Hague-Ferry contention that because big UK companies earn much of their revenues and profits abroad that Scottish independence is essentially an irrelevant consideration? The problem with this argument is that the Ipsos MORI poll of senior business leaders is not confined to the large FTSE 100 companies (who do trade mostly abroad).

In fact, of the business leaders polled, only 16 were from FTSE 100 companies, 22 were from the wider (and mostly domestic” FTSE 250 range) and another 64 are termed as representing “other listed and private” firms. If anything, the balance of companies polled by Ipsos MORI depend on the internal UK market for revenues and profits. So, Ferry’s argument falls at the first post.

Digging deeper into the poll, we find that most companies have their HQ’s located outside of London, most have a consumer orientation, and the biggest group are concentrated in retail and services (which suggests a local UK focus). This evidence underlines the fact that most companies in the Ipsos MORI leadership poll depend on the domestic UK market, not exports. And these are the firms which seem relaxed about Scottish independence.

Asked by Ipsos MORI “what are the most important issues facing Britain today”, Scotland did not figure. The top three concerns were the impact of Covid-19 (86% of firms), Brexit uncertainty (525) and general economic uncertainty (49%). Over two thirds are pessimistic that the UK Government will secure trade deals with either America or China, very quickly.

For the record, a number of significant Scottish companies took part in the survey, including FirstGroup, John Wood Plc, SSE, Standard Life Aberdeen and the Weir Group. While individual bosses of these companies might have expressed anti-indy sentiments, it is interesting that a combined group of UK industrial leaders which includes the effective leadership of the private Scottish economy could come up with such a relaxed attitude to independence.


The National:

As usual, Messers Hague and Ferry are trying to bend the facts to justify their prejudices.