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Dear staff - we'd like you to vote no

By Stuart Taylor

Message from chairman outlines firm's negative stance
Message from chairman outlines firm's negative stance

Sawmill company BSW Timber Group has been accused of putting “psychological pressure” on its workers, including hundreds of its employees in Lochaber, to vote no in the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

The company, which employs 225 people at its plant in Corpach, has distributed a “message from the chairman” leaflet to all employees, outlining its negative stance towards independence and listing the perceived risks to the firm.

In the document published on August 22, BSW chairman Martin Gale argued that free trade between the nations of the UK has benefitted them.

He told workers that the decision to vote yes or no is “yours alone” to make but said the board felt it should inform people of the “concern the company has should Scotland vote yes”.

He said the company, headquartered in Berwickshire, operated across the UK, but would have to split into entities which would add a “complicated layer of administration and unnecessary burden to the business”.

The chairman added: “As a business we can only deal with facts. We cannot speculate on the outcome of negotiations on currency, tax, EU membership and so on.

“As directors, we have a duty of care in managing company assets, the well-being of our staff and to assess a full range of business risks.

“Over the last five years we have clearly demonstrated leadership in our industry, made exceptional investment decisions and successfully grown the business to serve the strengthening British market.

“Of all the risks the board has had to consider, an independent Scotland surpasses them all.”

He concluded: “We are a successful business, at the top of the timber industry not only at a UK level but on a European scale.

“We firmly believe that BSW is better together as a single UK company.”

Dave Thompson, nationalist MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said he was disappointed by BSWs move.

He said an independent Scotland would be a member of the EU which meant no barriers to trade.

Mr Thompson said: “It is disappointing that a company is applying psychological pressure on their employees to vote no in the forthcoming referendum and in such an overt way.

"BSW TImber Group is an international company and I understand it has an operation in Latvia, proving that cross border co-operation and trade is very much the norm.

“Of course, companies are entitled to have their own view, however we all have to live and work together after the referendum, so anything that could be construed as intimidation of a workforce ought to be avoided.”

“When a company is in a position of influence over its employees it should ensure it does not prejudice the proper exercise of these employees’ own free, democratic will.”

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