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Scottish Independence: Impacting Business

9 Dec 2013
Paul Buchan

So it's a contentious issue; should Scotland be an independent country? Whilst that's a question that Eden Scott can't answer; we were delighted to have been invited along to the ICAS conference to hear some of the key issues facing Scotland around the referendum.

The conference focused purely on economic and business interests; the key battleground for floating voters ahead of the referendum next autumn. With the imminent arrival of the independence whitepaper, this article highlights some of the key observations from the ICAS conference.

"Vote Yes" campaigners relished the opportunity to convince ICAS members that independence is in the best interests of Scotland's business community, whilst "Better Together" campaigners showcased why independence would actually damage Scottish business.

As one of the most influential groups in the Scottish business community, a majority vote between ICAS members, would be a significant step towards victory for either campaign.


The Ultimate Question

People are quickly deciding whether they are in the Yes or No camp, however Ipsos MORI have reported that 49% of Scots are still undecided on what they will vote for.

The report also highlighted that people from low income households are much more likely to vote yes, whilst the more affluent business community is said to be predominantly no voters.

However what are the main arguements for and against for the business community to take heed of?

Business Considerations

Professor David Bell | The University of Stirling

David delivered a balanced review of Scotland’s performance with and without oil and gas, a finite resource that will not last forever. David's key point is that Scotland have missed the boat in establishing an oil and gas fund, 1979 would have been the right year to do that.

Whilst there's debate over how much oil and gas is left in the North Sea, the industry alone would not be enough to support Scotland if it was independent.

Charles Livingstone | Brodies

Charles discussed the implications on changing Scotland's currency, and how it would impact the country's relationship with Europe. Scotland is not guaranteed a currency union with the UK, however if independence was voted for; then a union is very likely.

Elspeth Orcharton | ICAS (Director of Taxation)

Elspeth provided scenarios of how independence would impact taxes, highlighting that by removing corporation tax; more businesses would invest in Scotland. However by cutting corporation tax, it will have a negative impact on Scotland's citizens, essentially making them a lot poorer.

Professor Alan Page | University of Dundee

Alan gave the most entertaining talk of the conference, discussing the likely constitutional arrangement. Alan predicted that if Scotland became an independent country, then this would likely stay as it is now.

Scottish Identity

The key areas for consideration at the conference were economic performance, business trading opportunities, monetary arrangements and taxation. What wasn't covered was identity. 

With growing exports, particularly within the food and drink sector, Scotland already has a business presence and identity in the international market.

It's important that Scotland retains its identity, no matter what way the referendum goes in 2014, for business to continue thriving.


Alistair Darling got his audience right. By their very nature, accountants are trained to be risk averse. When accountants do take risks, it usually stems from their developed commercial behaviour. Nevertheless, accountants are remaining open minded and are willing to hear more about how independence will impact Scottish business; both the positive and negative.

SNP are increasing the volume of pitches they are delivering to the business community. With less than a year to go until the referendum, both John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have recently highlighted how Scottish independence could lead to a surge in employment opportunities (if corporation tax was cut).

Whether you are a yes, no or undecided voter; the following months are certainly going to highlight some remarkable opportunities for Scottish business.


Paul Buchan
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