Referendum fear real, says analyst

Scottish Government claims that its looming independence referendum will not hit business confidence are “preposterous”, MSPs were told yesterday.

Peter Atherton, managing director of researchers and analysts Citigroup, said the vote would create an atmosphere of “risk and uncertainty” for firms.

Citigroup instigated a major row with a report last month on the uncertainty that the independence referendum could create for potential investors in renewable energy.

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The report has been raised in parliament as an argument against independence by the opposition, and Mr Atherton was called on to explain the findings during an appearance before Holyrood’s economy committee yesterday.

Nationalist MSP Chic Brodie said: “Your report quite clearly said an independent Scotland will create uncertainty which threatens renewables investment. It’s hardly a positive view, in terms of you saying that you don’t know what’s going to happen thereafter.”

Mr Atherton said: “The idea that you can have referendum on secession and not believe that it creates some uncertainty for investors in certain sectors, like utilities which is a regulated energy sector, is preposterous.”

The analyst added: “Elections create risk and uncertainty. The degree of that risk and uncertainty will vary greatly sector to sector and from instance to instance. The suggestion that Scotland having a referendum on whether to stay in the UK or not carries no uncertainty and no risk for particular sectors is preposterous.”

UK government ministers have cited the Citigroup report, alongside CBI Scotland, as “evidence” of the uncertainty created by the referendum.

However, the SNP has often challenged them to name individual companies that have expressed fears.

Labour leader Iain Gray said: “This is further evidence of growing disquiet in the financial and energy sectors about the negative impact of separation and the SNP delaying tactics on a referendum.”