AS Scotland gears up for the referendum on independence in 2014, the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) is to explore the pros and cons of any ensuing changes from a business perspective - should Scotland vote for independence or choose not to - at its Annual Conference this summer.

Bill Jamieson, executive editor of The Scotsman, will chair what promises to be a robust debate surrounding the question of independence. One of the most respected journalists in Scotland, Jamieson, who writes and commentates on finance, economics, politics and current affairs, will discuss what independence - or retaining the status quo - might mean for businesses based in Scotland and the UK, and the potential implications for southern-based companies supplying Scottish wholesalers.

The Big Debate, which launches the conference at Crieff Hydro, heralds a change in format for the high-profile event, a long-established highlight of the UK wholesale calendar. "It's about keeping our conference fresh and relevant," said George Benson, president of the SWA. "Once again we have secured an exceptional group of speakers and captains of industry for our business presentations, and the subject of our debate - independence - couldn't be more topical.

"Whatever your personal view on independence and whatever the outcome, there will undoubtedly be implications for Scottish businesses, UK businesses with divisions in Scotland and the suppliers with whom our wholesaler members do business with. Would independence change the way we all do business? Or would it create opportunities? And if Scotland chooses not go down the independence route in 2014, what does that mean? These are some of issues we will be discussing in The Big Debate."

Meanwhile, keynote speakers at this year's conference include Dundee-born Chris van der Kuyl, an individual who epitomises the new generation of entrepreneur in Scotland, and Simon Weston OBE, the Falklands War veteran who suffered 46% burns when the Sir Galahad was destroyed in Bluff Cove in 1982.

Rising to prominence in the late 1990s when he founded computer games firm VIS Entertainment, Chris van der Kuyl was later headhunted by publishing giant DC Thomson to take the helm at brightsolid, its digital publishing and technology company which owns an impressive portfolio of family history websites including Friends Reunited, - which it manages for National Registers of Scotland - and

Weston, a Welsh Guardsman who endured years of reconstructive surgery, including 70 major operations or surgical procedures, is a prolific charity supporter and motivates audiences around the world with his inspirational story. He has written three autobiographies and has also been the subject of five major BBC documentaries.

Also speaking at the 2013 conference will be: James Withers, chief executive of industry body Scotland Food & Drink; Craig Lear, head of catering, cleaning and waste services at Glasgow 2014; Robert Sider, president of the Scottish Grocers' Federation; and Colin Blair, owner of the award-winning Buzzworks pub group, based in Ayrshire.

Wholesalers addressing the conference include: John Forteith, senior partner, Forteith Foodservice, Oban; Michael McCrossnn, a general manager with Booker who spent a year working for the wholesaler's business in Mumbai; and Billy Bell, Wine Importers, Edinburgh.

Suppliers, too, are represented and delegates can look forward to thought-provoking presentations from:

  • Jonathan Kemp, commercial director, Barr Britvic
  • Jeremy Blackburn, communications manager, JTI Gallaher
  • Richard Porter, director of national accounts, Carlsberg
  • Jayne Harvey, director of leadership development, Diageo
  • Al Gunn, commercial director, Boost Drinks

George Benson, who will open and close the conference, added: "We have a particularly strong business programme this year but our conference goes further than that - it's a valuable networking opportunity but also a family-friendly event with a varied social programme for everyone to enjoy."

Bookings for the conference, taking place at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire from 14-16 June, are now being taken although you are advised to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Please direct all enquiries about the conference to Kate Salmon or Margaret Wilson on 0131 556 8753, or by email at: You can also find full details and a booking form for suppliers on the Scottish Wholesale Association's website: