MANY questions are yet to be answered in the Scottish independence debate, but perhaps the one that concerns me most is how a “yes” vote in the referendum will impact on business, particularly our firms in the North East.
It is a question I am frequently asked by journalists and while I appreciate that an economically vibrant Scotland is good for our region, the question about how independence will affect the regional economy remains unresolved.
At the moment there is a lack of clarity and reassurance that whatever the outcome the transition will be managed in a way that makes continuity of trade as easy as possible.
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In the last week, the NECC and British Chambers of Commerce published survey results that have demonstrated the Scottish debate is already having an impact on North East firms.
The snap poll of our members revealed that 12 per cent of companies across the North-East are putting off investment ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.
With just over four months to go until the Scottish people head to the polls, we felt it was important to gauge business opinion surrounding the Scottish independence vote.
Given that we need our businesses to continue investing to sustain the recovery, which has begun to gather pace in the last two quarters, the uncertainty that the referendum has created needs to be minimised.
Our own Quarterly Economic Surveys have demonstrated that business confidence is high in the North East, with many of our members predicting growth in the coming year, planning investment in their businesses and declaring rises in sales and orders; it is a cause for concern that 12% plan to hold back investment.
As we get closer to decision day, people on both sides of the debate must exercise caution and need to be careful not to heighten concerns through unhelpful hyping of political rhetoric.
Business confidence can be a fragile thing and anything that might knock it at such a crucial stage of the recovery must be avoided at all costs.
There are also historic concerns that an independent Scotland could gain advantage over our region in attracting inward investment with grant subsidies as well as the ability to lower tariffs currently unfairly levied on regional businesses, Air Passenger Duty being one example.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, and it quite rightly up to the Scottish people to decide their own future, one thing remains certain – things will never be the same again.