By a Newsnet reporter
The director of a well known Scottish travel company has caused controversy after circulating a memo amongst his staff which contains a bizarre rant against independence.
Bill Munro, who is the founder of Barrhead Travel, sent the memo to employees of the company claiming it was in response to questions he had been asked about the Scottish independence referendum.

In the circular, Munro said independence would be “a complete disaster” and claimed the country would be thrown out of the EU and unable to trade with England.

Citing a study that he says goes “straight to the heart of the truth”, Munro insisted a Yes vote would mean Scotland requiring its own currency.  The businessman also claimed an independent Scotland would not be able to acquire a credit rating from Standard & Poor’s on day one which would lead to “damagingly high interest payments”.

In the bizarre memo, Munro also told his staff that; “Scotland would need to accept a 5/63rd share of the UK national debt as a price of being released from its currency position of joint and several liability for all £1,185bn of it.”

On its website the company boasts: “Barrhead Travel has never stood still, and in the years ahead we’ll continue to evolve and to provide the lowest prices, top-notch service and the best value for our customers.”

However, pro-independence group Business for Scotland said the memo “didn’t make sense”.

Commenting, Gordon MacIntyre Kemp said: “The idea that in the event of a Yes vote, for example, there would be restrictions on trade, as outlined in the memo, doesn’t make any sense. Day in, day out there is free trading taking place between independent countries.

He added: “Business for Scotland would be happy to outline the overwhelming case for independence to Bill Munro and let him see why we believe it is the business opportunity of a lifetime.”

The memo has created a social media storm with pro-independence users reacting with a mixture of outrage and ridicule.

Writing on his blog, leading Yes Scotland figure Stephen Noon dismissed many of Munro’s claims calling them “embarrassing”.

Noon went on to debunk six of the businessman’s arguments, writing:

1. He says his business wouldn’t be able to trade outside an independent Scotland for 3 years: this has absolutely no basis in reality – trading takes place between independent countries every day of the year, Scotland would be no different. Ireland (in the EU) and Norway (outside the EU) all trade with England, so too would Scotland.

2. He says Scotland would be ‘outwith the EU’ but as Charlie Jeffery, Professor at Edinburgh University says “the conclusion of almost all independent expert analysis is that Scottish EU membership would be uninterrupted”.

3. He says Scotland would have to have its own currency, but Scotland already has a currency, the £ sterling and this would continue after a Yes. As a UK Government minister told the Guardian last week, “of course there would be a currency union”. As the government minister continued, “saying no to a currency union is obviously a vital part of the no campaign. But everything would change in the negotiations if there were a yes vote”

4. He says Scotland has ‘joint and several liability” for the UK’s national debt, however, this has been explicitly denied by the UK government which announced to the markets earlier this year that it would retain legal responsibility for all UK debt. As the Scottish Government set out in its White Paper, Scotland would meet its fair share on the basis that assets and liabilities go together – a cost that is already factored in to Scotland’s national accounts estimates.

5. He says Scotland would immediately have to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) on the path to joining the Euro, but EU law makes it 100% explicit that joining ERM is a totally voluntary decision. His claim is contrary to the legal position set out in the treaties and secondary legislation.

6. He says the ERM requirement would result in spending cuts in Scotland, but as the EU law position already stated makes clear, this claim has no basis in fact.

Referring to a recent analysis by leading credit agency cited by Munro, Mr Noon added: “Mr Munro clearly also missed the analysis by leading credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, in which they made clear: ‘Even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment’.

“Mr Munro has previously told the Daily Record that he ‘would rather be referred to personally as a good solid businessman who is Conservative with a capital C…’. Perhaps he should have Checked his facts, also with a capital C.”

Despite the errors contained in the memo, Better Together member, Labour MP Jim Murphy said: “Barrhead Travel is yet another example of an employer in Scotland saying that being part of the UK is better for their business. Having access to a single UK market of 63 million people, rather than five million, means Scotland’s firms have more opportunities to thrive and employ more people. Where is the sense in putting a barrier between Scottish businesses and their customers elsewhere in the UK?

“Businesses still aren’t being told what would replace the pound and how we would get back into the EU or on what terms. Asking Scotland’s employers to hope that it will be alright on the night isn’t good enough.

“Being part of the UK means we can have the best of both worlds – a strong Scottish Parliament, with the guarantee of more powers, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. Independence puts that at risk.

“Barrhead Travel is a real Scottish success story to be proud of. The nationalists’ response to the company saying they want to stay part of the UK is a new low. This is the worst type of negative politics from Yes campaigners.”


2014-03-31 18:35

Correct me if I’m wrong but: If we use the £ we won’t have our own currency. If we don’t have our own currency we can’t join ERM2, which means we can’t possibly join the Euro.
2014-03-31 20:06

Quoting ScotFree1320:

Correct me if I’m wrong but: If we use the £ we won’t have our own currency. If we don’t have our own currency we can’t join ERM2, which means we can’t possibly join the Euro.

The pound IS “our own currency. Have you been using something else? We (Scots) also have a share in the Bank of England, and many other Assets which the Westminster Parliaments seem to think belong to them. Don’t take my word for it, check the facts for yourself, they are available everywhere:-)

2014-03-31 21:07

The ToU created the £ we use today so yes, it’s as much ours as rUKs, but we currently use it within the political union. Just thought that if we *internationall  y* share the currency, neither nation has a currency that’s truly its own, so how then can either nation be ‘forced to join the Euro?’

2014-03-31 20:30

My understanding is similar to yours. You have to be in the ERM for two years before you can join the Euro; but I wouldn’t worry about the Euro. It’s well down the list of options.

2014-03-31 19:18

“Barrhead Travel’s 100% independence from any one tour operator allows our travel consultants to select the most appropriate travel for your needs. We can select any holiday package / flight from any tour operator to ensure you get the best value for money”.…/

Pity he can’t see that Scotland’s independence would give an elected Scottish government the freedom to offer the people of Scotland policies to meet their needs ensuring they get best value for money!
2014-03-31 19:51

I cannot fathom how so called “intelligent” business people can actually be so stupid. It seems to me that most of these attempts of castigating independence are written by the BT mob and not by the business in question.
2014-03-31 19:51

Nice to see Sincerity Jim teaming up with a Tory businessman. Nothing new there, then.
2014-03-31 20:12

Folks, whilst you may be annoyed with Mr Munro, please do not contemplate any boycott or sending emails. This is a good Scottish company who have good people who work for it. Let’s send a positive message to those in Barrhead Travel and not a spiteful one
call me dave
2014-03-31 21:09

Too late . . .
However they have made a statement.…/

Lots of anger though.

2014-03-31 21:08

#craigjameselli  ott No way am I going to give any custom to a business that campaigns against the future of my country and my family. If you want to give money to line Mr. Munro’s pockets that’s up to you.
2014-03-31 21:26

British Airways and Ryanair have the completely opposite views to Mr Munro.
2014-03-31 21:49

According to the Barrhead Travel update Mr Munro is a non executive director. Quite why he is able to circulate memos to staff with that position on the Board highlights some serious problems with Barrhead Travel!
2014-03-31 22:45

A ‘part-time’ one at that…

The Facebook entry is very clear. His views are not the views of the company.

Will Barrhead Travel leave it at that?

Or will they now circulate an e-mail to all their staff detailing their company’s policy to redress the balance

2014-03-31 22:35

Here we go again! Scotland would be “outwith the EU” but for some reason would “have to immediately join the ERM on the path to joining the Euro”. Could Mr Munro at least try to pick the appropriate scary “facts” to avoid making himself sound like a numpty? To join the Euro a country has to be an EU member.
2014-03-31 23:53

Jim Murphy:

“….being part of the UK is better for their business. Having access to a single UK market of 63 million people, rather than five million,”

Murphy either lying or just being incompetent? Doesn’t he realise that even before the internet age firms have been trading with populations OUTSIDE their borders.

Doesn’t he know that the internet encourages cross border trade? Does he think that huge Amazon Warehouse in Fife is for Scots buyers only or is it just a teeny weeny bit possible some of those parcels might be going to other parts of the UK too?

It’s no wonder BT supporters like Mr Munro get it hopelessly wrong when the BT MPs -even shadow cabinet MPs get it hopelessly wrong too?

Jo Bloggs
2014-04-01 06:48

Is there not around 500 million people in the EU’s Single Market?

2014-04-01 06:10

Does anyone else find it very strange that a country parading itself as some founder/ champion of democratic credentials somehow overlooked the need for regular checks of its validity?

If Scotland had not raised the question of whether or not we should be independent, would Westminster continued to have kept shtumm? Isn’t this stance the negation of democracy?

Now that this grievous oversight has been brought to its attention Westminster will surely invite the Welsh folk to air this matter too .
2014-04-01 10:35

Do you not think this might be a Scottish Tory helping out his friends by diverting attention from currency issues by leaking an old email that would be certain to get the internet buzzing and give an opportunity to blame cybernats again?
2014-04-01 16:14

Bill Munro may have just had his Gerald Ratner moment. At least half of Scotland will be totally insulted by his ill-informed email rant to the Barrhead Travel employees. I hope not, though, for the sake of his loyal staff, but you never know.
2014-04-01 16:40

I despair of the pto-union supporters who continually peddle the “independent Scotland will be ejected from the EU” misinformation. Excuse my use of bold type to emphasise this next point: there is no legal or other treaty mechanism for ejecting 5+ million citizens from the EU!

I cite as an example the case of Greenland. When it achieved home rule from Denmark and applied to leave the EU, it took YEARS of negotiation to bring this into effect. The EU is an inclusive organisation, as opposed to an exclusive one. All of its treaties are written in such a way as to underpin and uphold that principle.

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