336,000 Scots jobs depend on EU trade – SCDI

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry said there is “a very high level of support” among its members for the UK to remain a proactive member of the European Union.

“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,” said the SCDI.

The SCDI said the EU “is an essential foundation for Scotland’s international trade and investment.”

It said 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,” said the SCDI.

“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.”

It said 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.

SCDI also said that discussions with its members found areas where there is support for reform of the EU.

Some members identified action to address national regulatory barriers to trade, while others were 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,” said the SCDI.

“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.”

SCDI chief executive Ross Martin said it had 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,” said Martin.

“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 …”

Martin concluded: “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.”