Hamish Patrick: Independent Scotland must retain businesses
SCOTLAND’S larger financial services players are not purely Scottish and various types of retail and business financial services are provided from outside Scotland to those living or operating in Scotland.
The strength of the Scottish industry following any move to independence may be measured by the jobs and management functions located in Scotland and the taxes paid here by firms headquartered or otherwise based here.
The effects of independence on the industry depend on the policies adopted by an independent government and how changes from current business policies are handled.
Given the historic financial services skills base here, longer term prospects for growth in businesses based here must be good, provided the regulatory and tax environment is not unfavourable and the basic financial structures are seen to be clear and robust.
Financial businesses already located here may then see Scotland as a good place to grow and businesses headquartered elsewhere may see reason to base jobs and specific functions in Scotland.
Equally clearly, many financial businesses are mobile and if the business environment is not seen to be favourable, stable and safe, jobs and functions located here could move elsewhere and financial businesses headquartered elsewhere may choose another location when moving or expanding jobs or other functions.
Key to all of this will be the transition to independence.
Clarity will be required at an early stage on the currency to be adopted by an independent Scotland – and if, as seems likely, that currency is sterling on how monetary and fiscal policy might operate in the “sterlingzone” between the governments north and south of the Border and between the Bank of England and any separate Scottish central bank that may be established.
Likewise, mechanisms within the sterlingzone to preserve the stability of financial institutions would need to be clarified at an early stage as would the interaction of systems of financial regulation north and south of the Border.
Failure to establish clear and credible systems here could lead to lead financial businesses to consider seriously whether they would be better off operating from somewhere else.
• Dr Hamish Patrick is finance partner at Tods Murray LLP.
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