Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Why would they?

One of the scare tactics being deployed by the anti-independence brigade in Scotland is that jobs will be lost as companies move out.  Whether it’s “true” or not is irrelevant to those using the argument; their hope is that it will scare enough people into voting no so that the proposition will never need to be proved one way or the other.
Of course, there are companies which are saying they will leave if Scotland votes yes, but this probably owes more to the political prejudices of the people running those companies that to any thought-through policy.  Whether they actually decide to leave will ultimately depend more on the policies pursued by an independent Scotland than on the fact of independence itself.  And the traffic - if such there be - is unlikely to be one way; there will be other companies attracted by the possibilities of independence.
I’ll admit that I don’t know for certain whether companies would or would not leave Scotland, although unless the new government of an independent Scotland introduced a whole tranche of policies likely to drive businesses out (and why on earth would they do that?) then it seems unlikely.  But I’m not the only one who doesn’t know for certain; none of those stating as a fact that businesses will go can actually be certain either.  They just pretend to be – it’s simply propaganda.
The point about propaganda of course is that, if it’s any good, people will believe it and act accordingly.  Truth doesn’t enter into the equation.  I don’t know how effective this particular piece of propaganda will be in Scotland.  Some will believe it; but others will see it for what it is.
It does though seem to have found a ready audience in a group calling itself the Cardiff Business Council, whose members have managed to convince themselves that a number of leading Scottish companies might be persuaded to move to Cardiff if Scotland votes yes.  They are so convinced by the propaganda that they’ve written directly to the companies urging them to come to Cardiff.
There are two things that strike me about this, quite apart from the fact that they’ve been taken in by such propaganda.
The first is that it highlights the negative side of much of what passes for economic development.  It isn’t about growth or the promotion of new jobs; it’s merely about moving economic activity from one place to another.  Whilst the result of moving a company from A to B might well be good for B, it will invariably be bad for A.  And if grants or other forms of aid are involved, it means that we as taxpayers end up paying for a net increase of precisely zero jobs.  It’s much better, for all concerned, to use our time and effort seeking real additional jobs than to compete to move those already existing.
And the second point is this.  If someone running a company is so opposed to the idea of independence that they really will move their company out of Scotland if it happens, why on earth would they choose Wales rather than England?  No matter how unlikely it looks at this stage that Wales might follow Scotland, a yes vote in September will change the dynamic, and Welsh independence will, inevitably, appear more likely (or perhaps I should simply say “less unlikely”) than it does now.  Those involved would surely avoid – almost instinctively – potentially putting themselves in the same position again?
Of course it could simply be that the group concerned are engaging in a bit of anti-independence propaganda of their own…


Anonymous said...

Interesting. But not sure I agree. Multinationals want countries where it is easy to move workforces in and out. Taxes and other issues are also important. But moveability and flexibility are the real keys.

As for Wales, Cardiff is proving something of an attractive possibility for many at the moment. And for sure Welsh independence has already been factored in. No-one worries because no-one seriosuly expects those parts of Wales with language issues to be included in the mix.

In other words, independence for Wales will result in at least two or more discreet entities, not one new Wales.

Bring it on!

John Dixon said...

"Multinationals want countries where it is easy to move workforces in and out."

What's your basis for making that statement? Had you said that "Multinationals want countries where it is easy to move capital and taxable income in and out", or even "Multinationals want countries where it is easy to attract the cheapest workforce", then I'd have had to agree with you. But I'm not aware of any significant movement of people across borders at the behest of multinationals; people movement is usually limited to a few top executives and a few expert members of staff. But the real key for companies is, purely and simply, "can we make an adequate profit?". If the conditions are right for doing that, then there is plenty of evidence that capitalist entities are happy to be blind to the precise nature of the structures and regimes under which they operate.

"... independence for Wales will result in at least two or more discreet entities"

Whilst it's impossible to rule such a possibility out, it seems highly unlikely to me, not least because it's not something for which anyone (other than you!) is arguing. You are, of course, entitled to hold and express the opinion that it is both a probable and desirable outcome (just as I'm free to hold the opposite opinion), but stating it as incontrovertible fact is surely going a little beyond any evidence which might exist?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure and I certainly hope that we can/will return to such matters in the coming days.