Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Top energy and defence figure: Why I've switched from NO to YES

A leading energy and defence industry figure who was involved in the early stages of the NO campaign has come out strongly in favour of a YES vote on September 18.

Ian Godden says independence will unleash an 'energy and passion' that will not only be good for Scotland, but will also lead to a much needed 'refresh' of the rest of the UK.

The international businessman, who has more than 40 years' experience in the oil, aerospace and security sectors, says a NO vote would be 'a vote for the long-term decline of Scotland' and would be 'tragic'.

Mr Godden, who comes from Edinburgh, is founder and chairman of independent oil company Glenmore Energy plc, a non-executive director of the Bristows Helicopters Group, and until recently chairman of Farnborough International, the company behind the Farnborough Airshow and other global aerospace, defence and security events. He is also chairman of KBC Advanced Technologies plc, a public consulting and software company involved in oil and gas production, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

He decided to write to family and friends laying out his five key reasons for backing a YES vote on September 18.

He said:

'I am not a fan of Alex Salmond, and certainly not of the SNP. However, having agonised over the issues, and to some extent been involved in the early stages of the Better Together Campaign over issues in defence, I am now very clear on what Scotland should do.

'In my considered view, Scotland would do better being independent. It is about time Scotland voted positively to change itself.'

Mr Godden, who has degree in engineering from Edinburgh University and an MBA from Stanford University, California, attacked the 'relentless scaremongering' of the NO campaign, particularly over oil, currency and Scotland's ability to complete internationally as a small, independent nation.

He said:

'The oil that Scotland has is a huge asset and No campaign propaganda about it running out is absolute nonsense. It amounts to the biggest political scaremongering I have heard in my lifetime - and I have heard plenty in my own time at Westminster and in international politics.

'The US has been described as running out of oil and gas for the last 80 years, but after major investment in the last five years it will see itself again as the fastest growing oil producer in the world, recovering its position also as the largest.

'With investment, Scotland’s assets will last for hundreds of years - and they should be used more wisely and carefully than they have been for the last 40 under Westminster stewardship.

'If Scotland had been independent in 1974 it would have ranked as the fifth wealthiest country per capita in the world, after Luxembourg, Singapore, Qatar and Norway and every person in Scotland would have been two times wealthier than they are now. Twice! I calculate that Scotland could recover from Number 22 in the world (as part of the UK) to about Number 9 over time - equivalent to the wealth of the US. For reference, Norway is currently Number 4.'

Mr Godden said the pre-vote stance of the anti-independence parties to reject sharing the pound after a YES vote was also a 'scaremongering tactic'.

He said:

'The oil assets in the North Sea are coveted by Westminster and have been a major underpinning of the pound’s strength over the last 40 years - and will still be seen as crucial for the future.

'The pound needs the oil assets and would not wish to lose it. England is likely to be the loser, not Scotland. Furthermore, even if Westminster somehow refuses to cooperate with Scotland over the continued sharing of the pound, there are plenty of small countries that have successful independent currencies. In any case, to argue that we are losing the chance to link to a powerful international currency is no longer the case - the dollar, euro and yen are already much more powerful in international circles and the Chinese Yuan will eventually become the fourth currency. These four will really determine fundamental interest rates and fiscal policy for the 190 other countries. Westminster is clinging to a delusion that the pound is still an international powerhouse.'

Mr Godden said the idea that an independent Scotland could not do well industrially or in financial services because it was too small was another strand of NO campaign propaganda.

He said:

'Nine of the top 10 wealthiest countries in the world are small - six smaller than Scotland - some with oil and gas and some with a strong social, national and/or industrial policy, such as Singapore.

'Scotland has an industrious base, a skilled workforce and well-educated population. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are all wealthier per capita than the UK, as is Germany, of course. Tying Scotland, with its assets and potential wealth, to a steadily declining UK economy is a strange long-term idea of being better. In any case, there are 26 more countries in the world than 20 years ago for good reasons - and one more would be good thing, not bad, where interconnectedness in travel and via the internet is much easier than it has ever been before.'

Mr Godden spent much of his early career in the international oil industry, gaining a reputation in Europe and the US as a leading strategic expert. During the 1990s he was UK managing partner and a European Board member of American management and technology consulting giant Booz Allen and Hamilton. From 2000 to 2004, he was UK managing partner of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and from 2007-2011 he was Chairman of ADS, the trade organisation of the UK aerospace, defence and security industries.

He acknowledged there many cultural, social and religious ties between Scotland and other parts of the UK. But he does not believe these would be broken after a YES vote.

He added:

'Scandinavia, comprising three separate adjacent countries, share many cultural, social and religious commonalities despite being different in constitution and national identity. It is not a sufficient argument for voting No. The prospect is to remain a strong contributor to the British Isles, the Commonwealth, NATO and the European Union - inside or outside of a UK construct.'

Mr Godden said his fifth argument for a YES vote was his strong belief that it could 'unleash an energy and passion that Scotland could do well from, and it could do the same for England'.

He said:

'The United Kingdom as a whole is in need of a major refresh and this would contribute to a wakeup call over its general drift over the last 30 years. The condescending attitude of certain people, with whom I have worked with for the last 40 years and experienced at first hand in Westminster, is regrettable but that is not my motivation in seeking a Yes vote, nor would it ever be.

'Scotland can become independent for much better reasons. A vote against Alex Salmond for personality reasons at this stage, in my view, is short term-ism and would be tragic because a No vote is a vote for the long-term decline of Scotland.

'I have always thought of myself as British, with an Irish father and family and a Scottish mother and family and myself living and working in England for so long. However, I have come to believe that my own British sentimentalism and the cosy feeling it provides has to be put aside for the sake of a people that are being dragged down and have a greater potential.

'It is time to de-link ourselves from a declining larger country neighbour that has not looked after the interests of the Scottish people certainly for the last 40 years and, some would argue, for much longer.'
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