Referendum aftermath ‘is fuelling uncertainty’

Yes and Union supporters are interviewed outside the Scottish parliament. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Yes and Union supporters are interviewed outside the Scottish parliament. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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MOST of Scotland’s business leaders feel that September’s independence referendum has not brought the hoped-for certainty to industry, an exclusive Scotland on Sunday survey of 
Institute of Directors members has revealed.

IoD members questioned at the group’s conference at the Fairmont hotel in St Andrews felt the last-minute pledge of extra powers from the Unionist camp meant Scotland had moved into “a different period of uncertainty” while a new constitutional settlement is considered.

The gathering of 140 of Scotland’s most senior business leaders was asked: “Has the outcome of the independence referendum brought enough certainty to businesses in Scotland?”

The answer was a clear no for 52 per cent, with just 30 per cent saying yes and 18 per cent unsure.

Fraser Allen, Edinburgh-based chief executive of White Light Media, said: “The last-minute devo-max pledge by Better Together wasn’t fair on voters on either side, and has left a hell of a mess to clear up.

“Whatever agreement is reached, a lot of people will be disappointed and uncertainty for business will continue.”

Craig Vickery, head of accountancy body ACCA Scotland, added: “At the moment I think we have moved into a different period of uncertainty. We are still looking at the Smith Commission and proposals on further devolution. But the future is more certain than it was.”

But Ian McKay, chairman 
of IoD Scotland, said it was 
important that businesses “grasp the current opportunity to move forward”.

He said: “We are at a unique turning point both politically and economically where businesses in Scotland can really start to make prosperity a reality.

“It is of the utmost importance that we make sure that the best knowledge and experience, whether that be local or international, is coming into the Scottish marketplace to the benefit of all.

“Many business leaders recognise that while there is an upturn and growth is happening, the mood is different than pre-recession times.”

Leaders assembled at the IoD’s conference were also asked whether they thought Scotland was entrepreneurial enough. A conclusive 64 per cent did not, with 30 per cent answering yes and only 6 per cent not sure.

Joyce Duncan, chief executive of the Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations, felt that the dead hand of the state was stifling innovation.

She said: “The private sector is very entrepreneurial, the third sector is very entrepreneurial, but the public sector inhibits it and is insufficiently entrepreneurial itself.”

But Andy Lothian, the boss of Dundee-based global people development consultancy Insights, felt that those with the right attitude would succeed anywhere.

“Entrepreneurs are value creators,” he said. “They respond to whatever conditions they find themselves in to meet customer needs.

“We can create jobs, economic growth and prosperity in Scotland by supporting 
the establishment and development of entrepreneurial businesses.”

Only 6 per cent of businesspeople thought the banking sector had reformed enough following the financial crisis, with two-thirds saying categorically that it hadn’t. A further 29 per cent agreed that it’s “getting there”.