Independence: Firms urged to register in England

SCOTLAND’S small businesses have been told it may be “beneficial” to set up registered offices south of the Border after independence.

Nicola Sturgeon enjoys a joke with undecided business owners in Paisley yesterday. Picture: John Devlin

Official advice commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also says firms could enjoy a boost in public-sector procurement contracts in Scotland after a Yes vote – but lose out on deals with the rest of the UK.

A report entitled Scotland’s Independence Referendum: Your Business, Your Vote, was commissioned following disappointment from business owners on both sides of the divide on the quality of information produced by both sides of the debate. Firms would not need to have to set up a business registered in rUK in order to trade there, the report by Professor Brad Mackay and colleague Sarah Ivory at the University of Edinburgh Business School says.

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But it adds: “Depending on the amount of business you do in rUK and on the currency and EU scenarios, this may be beneficial for you.”

If Scotland does remain in the EU, Scottish firms would be able to bid for work south of the Border under procurement directives.

But the report adds: “Some contracts may be exempt from cross-border tendering rules, and there is also a potential for home country bias.

“As such, some Scottish businesses may gain from increased Scottish procurement, while some may lose from decreased rUK procurement.”

There is “no consensus” on the currency Scotland would use, the guidance adds.

There is also “a question” over Scotland’s membership of the European Union after a Yes vote which could see an “external EU border” imposed, even on a temporary basis.

However, the Conservatives’ plans for an in/out referendum in 2017 also places Scotland’s EU membership in doubt.

FSB Scottish policy convenor Andy Willox said: “Most Scottish small business owners don’t have time to leaf through dozens of phone book-thick discussion documents only to discover that their business interests aren’t featured.

“Our research tries to weed out the waffle and highlight what we know, what we don’t know and what’s fundamentally unknowable in the referendum debate. Many of the specific points raised by our members will depend largely on the two big, and bitterly contested, issues of the campaign: whether we’ll be a member of the EU, and if so on what basis; and which currency we’ll use.

“Others – on the postal or tax system, say – hinge on what would happen in the negotiations in the event of a Yes vote.”

Scottish Government finance secretary John Swinney responded by launching his own leaflet for small firms which sets out potential gains from independence. A more efficient tax environment would cut red tape, Mr Swinney said, while a “Team Scotland” to promote goods and services abroad would boost exports.

Mr Swinney added: “Independence presents a unique opportunity for Scotland to maximise economic potential.”

The UK government also launched its own leaflet which will go to every Scottish home setting out how it believes a No vote means keeping the pound, cheaper bills, more jobs, more support for public services and a stronger Scottish Parliament.