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Scottish Independence Referendum

I love you too England, but I still intend to vote Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum

By Gordon Young, Editor

September 2, 2014 | 7 min read

Every time I mention that I intend to vote Yes in the Scottish Independence referendum I can almost see the hurt in the eyes of my English pals.

You can tell emotions are running high south of the border. Paul McCartney has just signed a letter telling us how much he values us, Adam&EveDDB has put together a website inviting people to tug Scottish heart strings and there is an open letter doing the rounds which declares England's love of the Scots.

But such activity demonstrates just how out of sync sentiment is South of the Border with what is going on in the highways and by-ways of Scotland.

There, the debate has transcended 19th century nationalism. It is neither pro-English or anti-English. It simply revolves around what is the best way to govern Scotland. That perhaps explains why so many English people who have moved North of the Border are also minded to put their cross in the Yes box.

From my perspective I am a rabid Anglophile. I love the place. In fact if somebody organised an open love letter to the English I would be one of the first to sign on the dotted line. Seriously, it must be the most open, tolerant and welcoming country in the world.

The very fact that this is one of the few places which would allow such a referendum to take place without some form of armed intervention testifies to these qualities.

But that is not going to stop me voting Yes. The experience of helping to set up The Drum has very much shaped my judgement.

Over the past 30 years we have charted the relentless decline of the Scottish marketing industry. Hell, it even declined during the boom years - when Gordon Brown was proclaiming the end of bust.

One after another large agency closed - Rex Steward, Riley, The Bridge, Faulds, Ogilvy & Mather, 1576, Barkers, Morgan Associates, Elmwood, Blue Peach, Navy Blue, Newhaven, McIlroy Coates...the list goes on and on. In fact, Scotland has the dubious distinction of being the very first market in the world where McCann-Erickson closed an office.

Clients too have vanished from the scene for one reason or another - Bells, Royal Bank, Bank of Scotland, TSB, Clydesdale, John Lewis, Standard Life, Wm Low, Kwik-Fit, British Midland and John Menzies Retail.

Today, a mere rump of an industry is left. Okay - there are some good players around - but there are account groups in single London agencies which are bigger than the entire Scottish 'industry'.

So enfeebled is the market that even those behind the No campaign could not find an agency North of the Border to run their campaign selling the benefits of the Union with England. The account is handled by M&C Saatchi London.

Why is this important? Well in my view the marketing business remains a canary in the coal mind for the economy as a whole. If it coughs and splutters then the business sector itself is in peril. Perhaps that is why the best part of one million Scots have migrated to England - there simply is not the opportunities North of the Border.

I have listened to the No campaign arguments. I have read their websites and literature. But I can find no cohesive argument as to why a No vote would arrest this relentless decline.

So I have become convinced that Scotland's business community is in cardiac arrest. it needs a radical shock to the system if it stand any chance of revival. And in my view a Yes vote has more chance of delivering that.

The very transfer of the primary economic levers to Edinburgh will help. A cut in corporation tax for example will give companies a reason to move their operations North of the Border.

That was certainly the experience with Dublin which, for example now has 2,000 Google employees, which compares to just one in Scotland the last time I checked.

Another key power is control of immigration. Scotland needs more Scots - in fact the population has been largely static for decades, which in itself is a real barrier to growth.

But apart from all that, in my view the change of sentiment in the country that a Yes vote would bring about is a strong reason in its own right. As one one leading business figure put it; independence would be akin to a 'management buyout'. The energy and enthusiasm this alone would generate would make a difference in itself.

Incidentally, as far as arguments about North Sea oil, EU membership and currency union goes, I have to admit that I am persuaded by the Yes camp's arguments that many of the No contentions are paramount to scaremongering.

In many ways the difficult trading conditions forced The Drum to look outwards. We expanded first into the English regions and then to London. Today we are the UK's largest marketing website employing 45 people in Glasgow and 21 in London.

But that experience of expanding across the English regions has given us fascinating insights into the challenges the UK as a whole faces. There is no doubt London (which I love too by the way) is both its biggest asset and its largest liability,

It does suck the life blood from the regions - in terms of investment. talent and profile. In fact I am told it is actually Scotland's third largest city by population. And I marvel at the infra-structure in the South East.

From the balcony of my London flat for example I can see a cable-car system in one direction and parts of the massive Crossrail development - Europe's largest construction scheme - in the other. Glasgow Airport meanwhile doesn't even have a rail link connecting it terminal with the city centre. The South West, North West and North East of England actually face many similar problems. Their marketing industry canaries are also beginning to cough and splutter.

I believe that a dynamic, growing Scotland, would at last provide a counterbalance to the London powerhouse in these islands. Simply having the Scottish border would add spark to the economies of the Northern regions.

A streamlined Westminster legislature that has at last managed to deal with the West Lothian Question, would also be able to focus on the specific challenges the rest of the UK faces. And, reeling from the shock of an independent Scotland, I believe the political elite would at last start seriously addressing the challenges faced by the English regions; and a good start would be to give them more power over their own affairs.

This would be a great thing - because by neglecting its regions England is currently falling miles short of its true economic potential.

So my message to Paul McCartney, Adam&EveDDB, et al is that I am not voting yes to break-up Britain. I am voting yes because i reckon it could put the Great back into Britain as an economic zone.

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