Scottish independence: Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin says business leaders are talking 'nonsense'

The JD Wetherspoon founder says politicians and businesses are resorting to scaremongering to persuade people to vote no.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 20 Oct 2014

Business leaders are 'talking nonsense' and using scaremongering tactics by threatening that prices could rise if Scotland becomes an independent nation, Tim Martin said.

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon, which has 927 pubs in the UK - 75 of those in Scotland - said politicians and business leaders were 'underestimating the intelligence of voters,' the FT reported, and aren't taking into account other market factors. 'You just need to open a couple of hundred Aldis and then prices will come down,' he said.

The comments came as Wetherspoon reported a 3% rise in annual profits to £79.4m after like-for-like sales rose 5.5%.

The UK's biggest retailers have all weighed in to the referendum debate with just a week to go until the vote, warning that prices could rise north of the border if Scotland votes to break up the 307-year union.

'It does cost more money to trade in parts of Scotland, and therefore those higher costs in the event of a Yes vote are more likely to passed on,' John Lewis Chairman Charlie Mayfield said.

Asda and B&Q added that regulation and transport costs would push up prices. Lord Wolfson, the boss of Next, said Scotland could lose out from the loss of well-paid workers from the financial sectors who could move south.

He said: 'I'm worried about three things: currency, taxes and jobs. Whatever currency comes in in Scotland, it's likely to be weaker than the one they've got, and that is likely to push up prices.'

Former Sainsbury's CEO Justin King also issued a strong warning about the costs for retailers to do business in an independent Scotland.

'It is more expensive to do business in Scotland today. Business rates are higher, distribution costs are higher,' King told the BBC.

He added that supermarkets had already been wary about putting extra investment in Scotland because of the uncertainty around independence.

'When you invest in a shop you've got to take a 25-year view. That's been almost impossible for the last couple of years - and probably for the next couple of years too, until we are clear what the tax-and-spend regime is going to look like,' King said.

A number of businesses have spoken out this week about the impact of a yes vote, prompted by a poll which came out over the weekend which suggested that the 'yes' campaign was making headway among voters. Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Clydesdale Bank and insurer Standard Life have said they are making contingency plans to move functions to London if Scotland votes to become independent.

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