Let me lay my cards firmly on the table. Firstly, in the 2014 referendum, I voted to leave the UK but felt relief the following morning when it was announced that the No campaign had won. Secondly, as far as political parties are capable, the Scottish National Party is running Scotland as well as could have been hoped for and there is no doubt that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is as competent a politician as there is in the UK.
Having said this, I am utterly gobsmacked at what has happened since the result of the vote to leave the EU was announced on Friday 24 June. It was no surprise that the stock market and the value of the pound would drop, not so much because there were intrinsic reasons for this to happen but because speculators make their money on gambling with our economy and as such the livelihoods of ordinary people.
How many investors (a misnomer) will have sold shares in Royal Bank of Scotland that they did not own, saw the price drop by 15 per cent and buy them back before settlement was due?
What I was aghast at was that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP appear committed to remaining in the EU yet still wishing to leave the UK. The people of Scotland voted to remain within the UK in 2014 and, as such, we have no more right as Scots to remain in the EU as we would have had the right to leave the UK following the Remain referendum vote. But thinking through the logic, it is utterly crazy for the following reasons.
The principal reason for the majority of people who voted to exit the EU was immigration and border control. If Scotland remains in the EU, England would quite rightly demand border controls, which is nothing short of insanity given the point below.
Scotland does four times the amount of business with the England and Wales as it does with the EU, but we would need tariffs to trade with England but none with the EU.
The euro has been a disaster for the less prosperous countries of Europe – they have not been able to adjust the value of their own currency and thus goods purchased from countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain – together with the cost of holidaymaking there – is a lot more expensive than those nations would like them to be. Given the price of oil and the intrinsic weakness of the Scottish economy, entering the euro could be disastrous for us in the medium to long term.
I fully appreciate the argument that, if Scotland were still a member of the EU, external investors may be inclined to open businesses in Scotland using it as a channel into the EU, but we would be in competition with the Republic of Ireland (assuming it does not re-unite in the next year or two with Northern Ireland). As for speaking English, which is attractive to many foreign investors, it would be as easy for them to open up in Holland, as most of its residents actually have a better grasp of English grammar than many Scots.
What is required now is a period of absolute calm. Sturgeon should perhaps increase the apparent average age of those around her to somewhere between 50 and 60 to ensure that she is given proper advice on matters social, foreign and economic. Both the Conservative and Labour parties are in complete disarray and she should be doing nothing to take the spotlight off them. Running around Brussels at this time trying to make friends and good connections will be as fruitful as David Cameron’s attempts over the past 18 months. No-one other than those who are committed for purely historic and social reasons, without having any regard to the economic consequences of leaving the UK, should want independence at this time.
Accordingly, in my view, we should monitor exit negotiations once notice to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is served. If it becomes apparent that commonsense prevailed and responsible trade agreements, together with relatively free movement of workers is arranged, then Scotland should stay within the UK and outwith the EU.
We were promised that the referendum on Scottish independence would be a generational issue and the SNP should keep its word. As a person who works in the property industry, we need periods when folk are extremely happy and want to expand or extremely depressed and wish to sell. Business can only be transacted by parties who wish to do something and if they don’t know what is or about to happen they do nothing.
The property market crashed in 2007-08 and lasted a good four or more years. It stagnated a year or so before the Scottish referendum, then we had the EU referendum and now another potential Scottish referendum is on the cards. There are few votes won or lost from the property market but land and buildings transaction tax, rating revenue and income tax paid by those employed in the property industry should never be ignored.
For goodness’ sake, set party politics and personal ambition aside and let’s have some stability.
• David Griffin is managing director of Glasgow-based Griffin Webster Property Consultants