Comment: BP raise stakes on independence

Terry Murden. Picture: Ian GeorgesonTerry Murden. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Terry Murden. Picture: Ian Georgeson
BOB Dudley, the chief executive of BP, doesn’t have his problems to seek. The legacy of the Gulf of Mexico disaster and a tight oil market hitting margins are enough to keep the American’s in-tray overflowing.

Now he says there are “big uncertainties” surrounding the Scottish independence debate, particularly in relation to the currency that Scotland might adopt.

There is no suggestion that BP will pack away its tool kit and drills and sail away from the North Sea if Scotland votes Yes, but this is one more warning to those who believe the transition to a sovereign state will not cause businesses to rethink where they spend their money. Scotland will remain on BP’s itinerary. However, the market is already tough enough for the majors without any further difficulties being thrown their way and investment will be directed where it can generate the best return.

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Dudley has at least shown a willingness to voice an opinion on the independence issue when too many business leaders prefer to stay mute. All the evidence suggests businesses are generally opposed to breaking up the UK because of what they see as unnecessary disruption and extra burdens. In other words, they see no benefit from ending the status quo.

Fund managers are expressing a particular concern over plans for a Scottish regulator for the financial services sector. Owen Kelly, the chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, tells the Financial Times they are worried by the extra cost of staffing a new watchdog.

He will be well aware that he is not exactly breaking news on this. Plans for a new regulatory framework in Scotland were included in last November’s White Paper on independence and its merits and shortcomings were assessed in this column.

But Kelly has drawn attention specifically to the asset management sector which has been a growth business soaking up jobs lost in banking and elsewhere. Money can be managed anywhere so Scotland has to ensure it puts no obstacles in the way.

The White Paper proposes a Scottish regulator to discharge the responsibilities of the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which has a duty to supervise the behaviour of financial firms. But nowhere does it suggest what this Scottish regulator will do that is not already done and cannot continue to be done by the FCA in London – apart from creating an army of staff in Scotland, all operating at the taxpayers’ expense and providing no obvious benefit.

Skyscanner in reach of global growth target

THERE is no stopping Skyscanner, the Edinburgh company that is on track to becoming the world’s biggest travel search engine. It’s been a remarkable ride for chief executive Gareth Williams and his team which last year secured between £50 million and £100m in funding from Sequoia Capital, one of the Silicon Valley funder’s few investments in Europe.

Skyscanner is based in swanky offices in Edinburgh’s Quartermile and the floorspace is filling with web-based engineers and others who are turning it into one of the capital’s and Scotland’s fastest-growing companies, now worth around £500m and expected to employ 600 staff by the end of the year.

It is also an example to others of the modern Scotland, a global-facing company matching new technologies with current and changing lifestyles. As a role model, few can better it.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1