One of the great things about the Yes campaign is the way it brings together many different people from all walks of life and different party political persuasions.
It’s a great credit to this Conference that it provides a platform to those from across the wider Yes campaign, including those like myself with no allegiance to any political party.
Many people have come along different roads on their journey to Yes.
My journey started a couple of years ago when I decided to have a look for myself at the financial issues surrounding the referendum debate.
My background is in manufacturing. I run a number of businesses in Scotland, England and across Eastern Europe that have been built up over the past 10 years or so.
Businesses succeed or fail based on the numbers. Getting the numbers right is critical. Treating the numbers with respect is of paramount importance.
Facts are facts. When you forget that it hits you where it hurts – in the pocket.
When I did my own research on what the finances of an Independent Scotland would look like two things struck me.
Firstly, was the strength of the Scottish finances in comparison to the rest of the UK. A strength that has been consistent for each of the past 30 years.
The second was the spin and obfuscation that went into trying to disguise that fact from the people who are to going to decide the referendum result next year.
Business people are often sceptical of politicians, but I have to say even I was dismayed at the extent to which people who should know better constantly twisted and downplayed the reality of Scotland’s economic strengths to their own political ends.
Then you remember who these people largely are, and what they stand to personally lose in the event of a Yes vote. Westminster MPs pick up a tidy salary, not forgetting expenses.
As Al Gore said in a different context – it’s difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.
But these are people who should, and in many cases do, know better.
When Alistair Darling tells us that an Independent Scotland couldn’t have bailed out the banks, he does so in the full knowledge that international banks are bailed out on the basis of where they do business, not where their head office is.
He, above most, must surely know the numbers. He was in charge of the UK economy and financial regulations for months before the banking crash hit. The US Federal Reserve contributed £640bn, a trillion dollars, to the bailout of the British banks. They did that based on the extent of their operations in the US, not on where their head offices were.
An Independent Scotland would only have contributed roughly the same 10% to the bank bailout as we contributed in any event as part of the UK.
When Alistair raises the scare stories about pensions he knows fine well that the UK’s debt to GDP ratio is one of the worst in the industrialised world – worse even than that other large struggling European economy Spain.
He knows that the deficit to GDP ratio in Scotland is 5% compared to 8% in the rest of the UK.
Alastair, 5% is a smaller number than 8%.
Pensions are far more affordable in an Independent Scotland than they are in the current UK.
He never hesitates to remind us that public spending in Scotland is £1200 higher than the UK average. He conveniently forgets to add that tax take per head in Scotland is £1700 higher than the UK average.
Alistair, £1700 is more than £1200.
We start from the assumption that Alistair Darling knows how to count. We know he trained as a lawyer, but he must have demonstrated some numerical ability to have been allowed to occupy the position of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Then you notice that he has trouble with simple numbers, he routinely states that the population of Scotland is 6 million – inflating reality by some 700,000 – the population of the City of Glasgow – for no apparent reason.
He stated that industry estimates of 24 billion barrels left in the Scottish sector of the North Sea were overstated by a factor of 12. Alistair seems to think that there are only 2 billion barrels of oil left. Around half a billion barrels were pumped out last year. So according Alistair’s calculator the oil is running out sometime in 2017.
The realisation then begins to dawn that maybe he really doesn't get it.
Lots of people struggle with numbers – however not many of them make it to head of the UK Treasury.
Conference, we hear a lot about WMDs.
Now let’s hear it for Alistair Darling, the No campaign’s very own Weapon of Maths Destruction.
My journey to Yes led me to get involved with Business for Scotland, the non-party group of business people who have come together to put the financial and economic case for Independence.
That case is powerful, and it needs to be communicated as widely as possible to demonstrate to the people of Scotland that we have the economic strengths to be a successful country
The most common refrain heard on the doorsteps is, “yes but……"“… yes but, can we afford it ?”
Business for Scotland is making the case through our website, generating articles and debate on all economic and business aspects of the independence debate.
Challenging the myths, disinformation and opinion masquerading as fact that routinely emanates from the No Scotland campaign and their UK treasury support team.
Our growing network of local groups- are holding events for business people across the country.
Our support for local yes groups – providing speakers to take part in debates and panel discussions making the business and economic case for Independence.
We look forward to working with as many Yes groups as possible over the next 11 months to drive home the message.
This is a rich country, with natural and human resources most countries can only dream of.
I've worked in many countries around the world, including Norway. Norway is often held up as an example of what Scotland could become.
Well, let me tell you if you compare the advantages in resources that Scotland enjoys over Norway –better location, easier access to market, world-class technology across a range of sectors, a whisky industry with world renowned premium brands, top universities, easier geography, a huge global diaspora willing us to do well and a great global brand then we should be considering Norway as our start point, not our end point.
The fact that our aspirations are so low in a sad indictment of what the Union has done for Scotland.
There exists the opportunity to build something special here.
The alternative if to spend the rest of our lives explaining to our children and grandchildren how we had the winning lottery ticket in our hands and decided not to bother cashing it in.
Thanks to the work done by all of you over the years the time has come for the people of Scotland to seize that opportunity, and next September we in Business for Scotland believe they will do just that.
Thank you Conference.