Referendum Debate "Poor", Say Businesses

Over half of businesses have not found information on independence provided by the Scottish and UK governments useful and they describe the referendum debate so far as poor, a survey has found.

The Federation of Small Businesses questioned 1,800 Scottish business owners about the vote during April and May.

It found almost three-quarters have searched for information to help them decide how to cast their vote.

But 58% of those who have read the Scottish Government's White Paper, and 53% of those who have read the UK Government's analysis papers, reported that they did not find them useful.

Meanwhile, 58% categorised the debate so far as "poor'' or "very poor'' - with almost all respondents highlighting the economic prospects of an independent Scotland as an important issue.

Andy Willox, the FSB's Scottish policy convener, said: "Our survey work suggests that our members are hungry for information but their appetite is not being sated by the campaigns.

"We'll be doing our bit by working with the University of Edinburgh Business School to look at the issues, gather together available information and highlight areas of outstanding uncertainty.

"While we're maintaining our neutral stance, both sides of the debate have a job to do if they're looking to win over that 40% of the small business vote who could be swayed by new, quality information.''

The survey also found 18% of businesses said the referendum had influenced a business decision in the last year, and 38% thought independence would mean operations or plans would have to change.

Asked about the prospect of independence, while 54% said they were excited about the potential of new opportunities, 87% said they were concerned about potential risks.

Gordon McIntyre-Kemp, chief executive of pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said: "This reflects what our 2,000 members have been saying to us - they want more information but the opportunities they see on the other side of the referendum are exciting.

"They see the chance to make business work for Scotland, to grow, employ more people, sell Scottish products abroad and to really make our mark.''

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