Saturday 25 February 2012

Business and democracy

SSE committed to investing in Scotland
The media leapt upon SSE's submission to the Scottish Government's referendum consultation with a gleeful zeal such as to make the feeding frenzy of particularly rapacious sharks look as decorous as high tea at your granny's house by comparison. But was there really anything to get so excited about here? What did SSE actually say that was so newsworthy? Did they say anything to justify the sensationalist headlines?

Of course they didn't!

They did not, for example, say that the forthcoming referendum represented "increased risk", as some of the media would have us believe. The company merely acknowledged that the possibility of change in the regulatory framework was something that they always have to take into account. It is something that they would have to be cognisant of regardless of whether there was a referendum in the offing or not. They refer specifically to "current proposals to reform the electricity market in Great Britain" as an example. Proposals which have absolutely nothing to do with the referendum.

Neither did they so much as hint at any change to their investment plans in Scotland. Quite the contrary, in fact.

[SSE] said it has "no plans to move its registered office from Perth" and that the referendum "does not mean that SSE will not invest in projects in Scotland while its future is being determined".
And neither did they express any concern for the anticipated viability of their investments. Again, the very opposite is the case.

"SSE expects to continue to be a significant business in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the short, medium and long term and has a legitimate expectation that its investments in existing assets will continue to be adequately remunerated."
This stands in stark contrast to what the media would have us believe. The reality being massively more mundane than is suggested by the jaundiced jeremiads of anti-independence journalism.

But supposing this company's comments had borne some resemblance to what was reported in the media, what then? What if SSE had actually intimated that it's investment intentions might be adversely affected by the referendum? Is the exercise of democracy to be constrained by considerations of possible inconvenience to capitalist corporations? Are we ready to admit that society exists to serve the market rather than vice versa?

Nobody is denying that businesses are entitled to some input. It is perfectly valid for them to offer a rational and, hopefully, politically impartial assessment of how their operations might be affected by a proposed measure. But the inevitably self-serving voice of corporate interests carries no special weight. To treat the pronouncements handed down from board-rooms as if they were the commandments of some omnipotent and omniscient deity is an insult to the sovereign people of Scotland. And to democracy.

The Press Association: Energy company 'will remain here'

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