Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Top UK businessman says independence is ‘the jobs opportunity of a lifetime’

The outgoing boss of one of the UK’s most prominent companies has explained for the first time his decision to back independence for Scotland.

Ralph Topping, who is retiring as Chief Executive of betting giant William Hill plc and is one of Britain’s foremost business leaders with 44 years’ experience, cited ‘life chances for future generations’ as a key reason for his decision to vote Yes.

‘I firmly believe independence is the jobs opportunity of a lifetime,’ said Scots-born Mr Topping, who lives in Scotland and will have a vote on September 18.

During his time as Chief Executive at William Hill the company returned to the FTSE 100 in May 2013 for the first time in seven years and the share price has trebled. The company now employs 17,000 people.

Mr Topping was appointed to the post in February 2008 having worked his way up through the ranks of the company he joined in 1973. In 2009, he also took on the role as non-executive Chairman of the Scottish Premier League, combining two of his personal passions, Scotland and football.

Last week Mr Topping joined Business for Scotland, the pro-independence business group now with a membership of 2,500 - all with experience of running businesses, large and small, and making a substantial contribution to Scotland’s economy.

The endorsement is the latest in a series from major job-creators, including most recently the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association CEO of the Year John Innes.

Mr Topping said:

‘Like most Scots I have listened to the debate with an open mind. In my experience, industry is responding well to the prospect of job-creating powers that give Scotland a competitive advantage in the global economy.

‘This is about more life chances for future generations. I firmly believe independence is the jobs opportunity of a lifetime. With control of economic powers we can attract more business, investment and jobs to Scotland.

‘The business vote was expected to be an easy win for the No Campaign but I believe it has proven otherwise. It is clear to many of us that Westminster is downplaying the value of oil, putting pressure on business people to speak out against independence and trying to scare the voting public. Where is the No Campaign’s positive vision, something to vote for rather than against?

‘Just as a UK Cabinet Minister admitted, of course there will be a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is not the location of a bank’s brass plate in Scotland but rather the concentration of economic assets in the rest of the UK that matters to British financial stability.

‘The Treasury should stop playing politics and listen to market voices wanting a collaborative approach to the monetary system between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. In this respect, common sense economics was always going to trump politics.’

Blair Jenkins, Chief Executive of Yes Scotland, said: ‘Ralph Topping is a substantial and influential business figure with a wealth of experience and his opinions will carry great weight. Most people understand that we should listen to the job-creators rather than to those at Westminster who merely want to keep their jobs.

‘In contrast to the doom-mongering scenarios being painted by the No camp’s “Project Fear” strategy to try to scare the voting public, his clear and positive views on a Yes vote are timely and welcome as the campaign moves towards its final six weeks.’
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