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The owner of a Scottish Ice Cream family business has launched an astonishing attack on the Scottish food and drink industry, claiming that most Scottish food and drink brands are not good enough to withstand independence.
In a circular sent to Scottish food and drink businesses, Maitland Mackie attacked what he called the “destruction of the united kingdom” and claimed that buyers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would refuse to buy Scottish produce because Scotland’s businesses would be viewed as “foreign”.
Head of the ‘Mackies of Scotland’ ice cream company, Mr Mackie was responding to a survey he himself organised that saw over eighty per cent of those receiving the questionnaire refuse to respond.
In an extraordinary letter to recipients, the Ice Cream Chief had urged them to “circulate this among the owners and/or senior executives of your business - and feel free to forward to other Scottish Food and Drink businesses.”
The question asked: “Recognising that given independence, buyers in the rest of the United Kingdom would consider all Scottish businesses to be foreign, the overall impact of an independent Scotland for Scottish food businesses will be”, and offered respondents several response options.
The survey, sent to 500 Scottish businesses was ignored by over 400 of the recipients. However Mackie claimed that the response was “very high indeed” and that the results were “highly significant”.
According to Mr Mackie, his poll showed that “8% thought that becoming foreigners in 90% of our current market could be advantageous, 20% took a neutral position, and 71.5% expressed deep concern at the possibility of such a situation becoming a reality.”
Circulating the results to the press and the Better Together campaign, Mackie admitted that his poll was biased and wrote: “A couple pointed out that the question asked was biased! Of course it was! My covering letter, overtly conveyed my own views on the independence issue,”
He also claimed independence would lead to “colossal statehood responsibilities” and “uncertainty in all walks of life” and would lead to “20 years of political and bureaucratic hassle” and that there was “clear nervousness” amongst all businesses to put their heads above the parapet.
However, Mr Mackie’s claims regarding Scottish food and drink businesses is at odds with comments from Paul Walsh, Chief Executive of Diageo, who said on 23 August 2012 on the Radio 4 Today Programme that Scottish Independence would make no difference to the company’s investment decisions:
"No difference at all. Scotch has been around for hundreds of years, it has seen all kinds of political changes. We'll weather anything. Our decision to invest is based on the economics that we think the category will continue to enjoy. We have a very good relationship with Holyrood and with Westminster. I don't think that debate is one we wish to get into."
The ice cream chief, who stood against Alex Salmond as a Lib Dem candidate in the 1999 Scottish elections, also claimed he has yet to find any businesses who are supportive of Scottish independence.
“There are/must be some, but I have not yet found a business person supportive of full independence for Scotland.”
Mr Mackie’s attack on the strength of the Scottish Food and Drink brand will cause amazement within an industry that has thrived since the SNP took office in 2007. The then new Scottish government’s target of £5 billion industry exports by 2017 was achieved six years early and new targets of over £7 billion by 2017 will see food and drink match the revenue achieved by the lucrative oil and gas exports
First Minister Alex Salmond has been central to opening up the Chinese markets to whisky, winning the iconic drink geographic location status. The Chinese market has also been opened up to Scottish salmon.
Scottish Food and Drink facts:
1. Food and drink exports overseas and to the rest of the UK are at an all time high
2. Overall the food and drink sector remains successful
3. Food and Drink is a strong performing Scottish industry