British PM urges Scots to heed business warnings over independence

Reuters , Friday 14 Mar 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron (Photo: Reuters)

British Prime Minister David Cameron will urge Scots on Friday to heed warnings from the head of the Bank of England and business leaders over voting to become independent in a referendum in six months' time.

Cameron will tell the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Edinburgh that the Sept. 18 referendum is a major life choice and no decision should be made without being fully aware of the consequences.

Business leaders have raised concerns about Scotland leaving the United Kingdom due to uncertainties over currency, tax, regulatory regimes and European Union membership.

All three main UK political parties have ruled out sharing the pound in a sterling zone, which is the Scottish government's preferred currency option if voters back independence.

Cameron said the warnings were from non-partisan figures, with leaders of companies such as oil giants Shell and BP and financial services heavyweights Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life, and Barclays joining the debate in recent weeks.

His intervention comes after an opinion poll found support for independence was at its highest in six months. A Survation poll found 39 percent of Scots planned to vote Yes for independence compared to 48 percent No and 13 percent undecided.

"The idea that these are empty warnings and political scare-mongering is a myth - and we owe it to the people of Scotland to take that myth apart," Cameron will say, according to notes from the speech released in advance.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond argues that Scotland - with its off-shore oil reserves - could be a prosperous nation and that independence will give it the chance to raise and spend its own money rather than being directed by a London-based government.

He has accused the pro-UK Better Together campaign of scare-mongering about independence, dubbing it "Project Fear".

Although the separatists are still trailing in support, opinion polls have narrowed this year, prompting British officials to warn over complacency leading up to the referendum.

Cameron last month stepped up the debate with a speech at the cycling venue used for the 2012 London Olympics dubbed a "love-bombing" by commentators in which he declared to Scots: "We want you to stay".

On Friday, he will use sport again, with Scotland due to host the Commonwealth Games in July, to stress the strength of Scotland staying with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, describing them as a "family of nations".

"We'll see the strength of that family again at the Commonwealth Games this summer," he will say.

"When the call went out for volunteers at Glasgow 2014, more than a quarter of those who responded were from elsewhere in the UK ... because it's not 'over the border', it's not a foreign country, this is our home, and when any corner of these islands needs back up or support, the rest is there."

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