Almost three months on from the UK referendum vote to leave the EU and we are little the wiser as to what is in store. The consequences are of material concern to Scotland where a majority voted Remain while sectors ranging from food and drink to university research are apprehensive about what the future may hold.
One consolation is that much of the alarm in the immediate wake of the vote has not – or not yet – been borne out in a sharp downturn in activity. Key UK surveys across the manufacturing, construction and services sectors show a recovery in August from initial falls in July, though the “bounce” in Scotland looks more subdued.
Given that the EU enjoys a substantial surplus in goods and services trade with the UK, fears that all trade would cease is clearly a nonsense. And the SNP administration has come round to a more pragmatic – and welcome – course of action to work to ensure that Scotland secures the best possible deal in any final UK-EU settlement that emerges.
This reflects an evident preference across business for access to the EU single market – both for services and goods – to be maintained. A “key conclusion” from the early evidence highlighted the importance of ease of access and the lack of tariff and non-tariff barriers. The parliament’s European and external relations committee has commissioned research to find out more before making recommendations.
That is a sensible way forward. But it is frustrating that progress at UK level seems slow. Progress must be made on these major questions Scotland has reason to be concerned given the need to improve our export performance.