By Ewan Mackay, director of SGM Property Consultants
The Scottish referendum has brought a lot of uncertainty to businesses in Scotland and I, for one, am concerned.
Supporters of the yes campaign argue that going independent will bring all sorts of opportunities to help the country prosper, but I’m not too sure. There are too many unanswered questions relating to our currency and tax, as well as our place in the EU, to be anything but hesitant and nervous about breaking free from the UK. And these uncertainties are leading to a lot of major businesses – who employ thousands of Scots – drawing up contingency plans and planning their escape route for if Scotland does go independent.
As a country, we have a lot to be proud of and many successful industries. Our beautiful landscapes and strong heritage help make our tourism industry worth a staggering £11 billion; our world famous whisky results in £4.27 billion of exports; and our renewable energy market supports 11,000 jobs. But what would happen to these industries – along with our strong finance, construction, textiles, electronics and fishing markets – if we were to fly solo?
There doesn’t seem to have been any thought given to logistics. How will businesses continue to work with the rest of the UK and Europe if Scotland does go independent? Breaking free from the rest of the UK will undoubtedly add to the complexity and cost of working with other countries. While bigger organisations – at least those that decide to stay in Scotland – will be able to plan and prepare for these changes and additional costs, it is smaller businesses that will suffer.
If Scotland does go independent, businesses will of course fight and evolve in order to survive. But I worry about the short term impact. With little or no guidance, support or clarity, it will be make or break time for a lot of businesses. And with the recent recession still fresh in our minds, we know only too well how quickly and easily a business can break.
I struggle to see how independence can be better for our economy; we work better as a bigger nation, with the security and support of the rest of the UK. Businesses, jobs and Scotland’s economy are massively at risk at the moment and not enough has been said or done to assure me otherwise.
It has been a turbulent few years for businesses in general, and we are finally beginning to see the benefits of improved market conditions. A yes vote could put us significantly back if it is not handled correctly, and it is the next generation that will have to bear the brunt of this.
Alex Salmond may be a good politician and be able to romanticise the idea of going independent, but we need to be realistic. A lot of our jobs, investments and new business opportunities are made possible because we are part of the UK. It is difficult to gauge exactly which way the vote will go at the moment, but I really hope the people of Scotland – and businesses in particular – see that we are stronger as one and vote accordingly.Tags: business, economy, Scotland, Scottish independent, UK, yes vote