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B&Q boss hammer blow for Alex Salmon

The head of DIY giant B&Q yesterday said investment in Scotland would be put on hold if the country leaves the UK.

The chief executive of owners Kingfisher, Sir Ian Cheshire, said a Yes vote in September would create too many uncertainties. Kingfisher has already shelved plans to almost double the size of the Screwfix chain north of the Border, by adding 23 branches, until the referendum is over.

There was an angry reaction by cybernats, online Yes supporters, to Sir Ian’s comments. The B&Q boss has joined the chief executive of drinks giant Diageo and the head of BAE Systems in expressing concerns about secession as the referendum entered its official campaign period.

The intervention follows others from insurer Standard Life and BP head Bob Dudley.

But almost as soon as news of Sir Ian’s comments started to spread, some Nationalists took to social media sites calling for a boycott of the firm.

Some of the cybernats said they would never use the firm again and others urged friends and family to take their trade away from B&Q.

Sir Ian, speaking at the new B&Q warehouse in Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire, stressed he would not pull out of Scotland if voters back separation. But he added: “It would put a pause on everything. If we have differences on VAT, currency, it just puts everything into hibernation as we try to figure out what it will mean.

“At the end of that we have to consider what is the trading environment.

“Because Scotland is such an important part of B&Q, there’s no way we’re going to let it go.

“But it would be more complicated, probably more costly and less likely to attract investment, given we could invest in 11 other countries around the world.” Sir Ian, who employs 2,600 people in Scotland in B&Q stores and 400 in Screwfix shops, said independence would mean changes to the firm’s IT system and products may have to be repriced.

He said his warnings were based purely on business reasons and dismissed any claims that Scotland could not survive on its own as “ridiculous”.

Sir Ian said: “Whatever the result of the referendum, we will be here.” But he said he would “strongly advise” a vote against independence.

“As a business, through our lens, it is clearly better to be part of the UK,” he added.

The remarks sparked ill-tempered exchanges online as angry Nationalists hit out at Sir Ian. Kyle O’Neill tweeted: “So B&Q trusts Scots with power tools just not sovereignty. Fair play. I’m sure they’ll be sorely missed.”

John R Campbell said: “B in B&Q stand for British? could stand for Boycott – that is what we should do in response to propaganda.”

Tony Banks, chairman of Balhousie Care Group and the pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said: “The only risk of barriers to trade comes with a No vote after which it looks increasingly likely Scotland will be dragged out of Europe by the rest of the UK.” Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “Here we see yet another respected business figure raising serious questions about the risks.”

Meanwhile, Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, said staying in the EU was important so that whisky could continue to benefit from trade agreements.

Source : Paul Gilbride - Scottish Express

31 May 2014
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