So far, accusations of bullying in the Scottish independence debate have mostly come from the Yes camp, says the Financial Times.
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, Alex Salmond, and colleagues have criticised Westminster over threats about the potential costs of separation, such as losing the pound and EU membership. But now Salmond stands “accused of employing heavy-handed tactics” to keep business leaders out of the debate.
A spokesman for Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) said Salmond had called its chairman, Sir Ewan Brown, to dissuade him from publishing a briefing on the referendum.
Gavin Hewitt, former head of the Scottish Whisky Association, told Channel 4’s Dispatches that he had been told by the SNP that there would be “retribution” if it got involved. The Yes camp and the Scottish government have denied the allegations.
The politically neutral SFE published a “scathing critique” this year, contradicting some of Salmond’s “most central claims on the country’s finances after independence”, says Ben Riley-Smith in The Daily Telegraph.
It warned that post-independence talks could take far longer than the SNP’s 18-month estimate, and that a separate currency was a “real possibility”. A spokesman for Salmond said he had merely been trying to ensure anything published was “properly balanced”.
Many are unconvinced. Last week David Cameron accused Salmond of exerting “huge” pressure to stop companies talking about potential pitfalls. Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, chief executive of the pro-independence Business for Scotland, retorted that firms weren’t speaking up for the No camp because their message was “simply not credible”.
Whatever the truth, the attitude of business has a “strong bearing on the credibility” of Salmond’s vision, says the FT.
Companies are “well placed to assess the pros and cons”. Local firms may fear alienating customers, but internationally minded companies such as Weir and Standard Life have been “more willing to speak their minds”, and should not be hindered from doing so.