What would Scottish independence mean for South West businesses?
The rest of the UK has (somewhat belatedly) started to consider what might happen if Scotland DOES vote “yes” on Thursday.
But what would the impact be on business here in Bristol and the SW? James Durie, Executive Director of Bristol Chamber & Initiative at Business West looks into the unknown…
Read every pundit’s verdict on the potential fall-out of a “yes” vote in Scotland’s historic referendum, and you might well end up mightily confused… not least because everyone has a very different take; and because (if we’re honest) no one really knows for sure.
There are just too many variables.
As Donald Rumsfield famously set out, albeit in very different circumstances, while we might get our heads around the “known knowns”, we’re still left with an awful lot of “unknown knowns” – and that’s before we even get to the “unknown unknowns”.
From a personal perspective, I think it would be a tragedy to break up the UK in this way, as it would diminish all of us in a host of ways.
It feels like a divorce we didn’t particularly want and where we’re not getting a say on the decision.
On a business front, I think the fall out will be overwhelmingly negative. We spend a lot of our time pumping out the message to the world what the UK has to offer potential inward investors.
Once that sales pitch has taken root, we’re happy to compete hard with our regional rivals on where that investment might land. Fragmenting that message just makes us all smaller on the big global stage.
There is also the unknown impact on the economy. How will it affect sterling, exchange and interest rates, the stock market, growth, the free movement of people between here and Scotland…?
At a time when we’ve only just emerged from a prolonged and hugely damaging recession, the timing could hardly be worse. What investors, businesses, lenders and markets want is stability and certainty.
This is anything but.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been asking our members for their take on the situation.
To date, well over 500 have responded and the headline figures are that 66% of respondents feel a “yes” vote for Scottish Independence would have a negative impact on the national economy; just 9% feel it would have a positive impact.
Some 41% of local companies have business relationships with Scotland – and while the total value of those relationships isn’t available (few break it down in that way) there have to be concerns if the free flow of goods and services between us was impeded in any way.
Indeed, one fifth of businesses here in the West think Scottish independence would have a negative effect on their bottom line.