MORE than 250 women from the Scottish business world gathered in Glasgow to debate the impact of independence.

From entrepreneurs and small business owners to charity bosses and decision makers, the group packed into a lecture room in Strathclyde University last night to ask the burning questions in the lead up to the referendum.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was joined on the panel by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie and commentator Ruth Wishart.

The event, which was organised by Scottish Women in Business (SWIB) and hosted by Sally Magnusson, sold out weeks ago.

A waiting list was set up because demand to attend was so high. Among the topics discussed were currency, Europe, childcare, part-time working and the gender pay gap.

With less than six months to go to the referendum, they wanted to know what independence would mean for them and how businesses would operate if the country votes Yes.

Figures show that the Scottish labour market is made up of 51% women and there is a gender pay gap of 13.9%.

A total of 41% of women work part-time.

Ms Sturgeon told the Evening Times she wanted to give the group an opportunity to "engage in the debate".

She said: "I hope it gives people the chance to ask questions and it carries on the process of letting people make up their minds."

The Glasgow MSP said she was not surprised at how popular the debate was. She said: "I'm doing a lot of meetings just now, but the one common feature is they are all oversubscribed."

Labour's Ms Lamont said the debate was about addressing what women in business need, regardless of the referendum.

Ms Goldie said independence was causing concern among Scots firms.

She said: "The one thing business hates is risk and uncertainty, business cannot cope with that.

"I think it's becoming evident that many significant businesses in Scotland are worried about independence, they simply do not see advantages for them."

Lindsey Cartwright, a partner with Glasgow-based law firm Morton Fraser said she was there to "find out more about what independence really means to business in Glasgow".

She added: "The biggest thing for me is there's a lot of uncertainty and I would want to know the ramifications of being independent and what it will bring to the people and businesses in Scotland. The uncertainty is stalling a lot of business in Scotland at the moment so there are issues."