SCDI STATEMENT ON EU REFERENDUM: The UK should remain a proactive member of the European Union

SCDI's membership spans every sector and geography of Scotland's economy and we engaged our members in extensive discussions, including a full membership survey, in preparing our policy Blueprint 'From Fragile to Agile' published at the end of 2015. This involved specific discussion of the impact of European Union membership on them and whether the UK should remain in or leave. This discussion found clear support from those members which responded to state a position to remain in the EU.

Following the announcement of the proposed new settlement for the UK within the EU and the referendum, SCDI undertook a survey open to our full membership (in March 2016), on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU. This, again, demonstrated that, while there are views to the contrary, there is continued support from members which stated a position for the UK to remain in the EU. 

SCDI is constantly communicating on key issues with our diverse membership in a wide variety of ways. As with any diverse membership, there are a range of perspectives of which SCDI is respectful. SCDI is entirely confident that in stating that if the UK remains in the EU it would be better for the Scottish economy it accurately represents the position of the majority of our members.

Whilst there is clear support from SCDI members for continued UK membership of the EU, SCDI recognises that this will be a decision for individuals across the country to reach. Many of our members have raised the need for non-partisan evidence on the potential impact of a decision either way in order to help people reach informed decisions. This is an area that SCDI is planning to help facilitate.

In SCDI's view, the EU is an essential foundation for Scotland's international trade and investment. The EU is the world's largest single market, with 45% of Scotland's international exports and an estimated 336,000 jobs across Scotland dependent on trade with EU countries. It aims to enable the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, reducing regulatory barriers and developing common standards. People from the EU supply key skills in the Scottish economy and a significant and growing population at our world-class educational institutions. The EU is now the main proponent of trade agreements and a successful defender of trade interests at the World Trade Organisation.

Concerns raised by SCDI members about leaving the EU included reduced influence over key policies, such as pan-European energy networks; reduced funding, for example for research and development or regional and social development; and reduced knowledge exchange in business and education.

Discussions with members found areas where there is support for reform. Some identified a deepening of the single market and action to address national regulatory barriers to trade, while others are concerned that there is some legislative and regulatory over-reach by the EU. Both issues would benefit from EU institutions being more visible, responsive and flexible to business needs.

SCDI Chief Executive, Ross Martin said: "In 'From Fragile to Agile', SCDI identified the key challenges for the Scottish economy as increasing productivity, innovation and internationalisation, all of which are underpinned by improving infrastructure, with a high priority to be a world leader in digitalisation and the low carbon transition.

"SCDI believes that the Scottish economy will be better positioned to become high-performance in all of these areas if the UK remains a EU member. EU membership is, for example, key to Scotland's attractiveness for investment and talent; collaboration on research; trade with the EU single market and new trade agreements to grow Scottish exports to global markets; development of a Digital Single Market; and interconnection of energy markets to increase security of supply and decarbonisation.

"SCDI is encouraging the Scottish and UK governments to develop a common platform to grow Scotland's economy and, with both supporting continued UK membership of the EU, this should include strong and positive engagement and influence in the EU and, with EU partners, globally.

"Today, Scotland and many of Scotland's businesses, educational institutions and cities and regions have deep links with counterparts across the EU. While the EU needs to reform and focus on key priorities, as the global economy becomes more competitive and connectivity improves, SCDI believes that influence in and from within the EU offers stronger prospects for Scotland to be successful.

"Working together, the EU is the most highly influential player in international trade discussions. These deals develop opportunities for the Scottish economy to benefit from increased trade and investment, participation in global value chains and the diffusion of innovation, all of which drive higher productivity, the key to long-term prosperity. SCDI believes that trade agreements in negotiation by the EU should generate substantial economic benefits for the UK, increasing Scotland's GDP and international exports, and advancing economic and social prosperity and resilience.

"SCDI recognises that this is a decision for individuals to reach. There is a very high level of support across SCDI's diverse membership for the UK to remain in the EU, which we are stating to inform the debate, but not everyone in our membership shares this position. SCDI will seek to facilitate open, informative and respectful discussions involving all views to help people reach their own decisions."