Scottish independence: UK firms slash investment in Scotland amid indyref2 fears

Public finance minister Kate Forbes says inward investment is up
Public finance minister Kate Forbes says inward investment is up
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The prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence has seen a "dramatic" slump in investment from UK finance giants north of the border, it has been claimed.

Constitutional uncertainty has seen property investment from London-based finance houses fall to a record low, according to Professor Colin Anthony Jones from Heriot Watt University, who says Glasgow and Edinburgh have been badly hit.

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But the claims have been rejected by Scottish ministers who say inward investment is on the rise.

The SNP Government has published legislation, currently going through Parliament, to pave the way for a second referendum which Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold next year. However, it would require a transfer of power from Westminster, which controls the constitution, and has been rejected by the two contenders in the Tory leadership contest.

The commercial property industry contributes about £6bn to Scotland's economy and 60,000 jobs, with a growing shortfall of modern office and industrial stock.

Read more: SNP figures hit out at after party rejects 'alternative plan' for independence without referendum
But Prof Jones told the Sunday Times that expenditure in Scotland by UK financial institutions fell to just 2.9% and then 2.1% of their total investments in 2015 and 2016 respectively, the lowest since records began. This is down from 6.8% in the preceding two years.

"Political risk created by the neverendum increased uncertainty and had a negative effect on sentiment, with reduced real estate investment by UK investors," he told the paper.

"The political risk of the neverendum is the consequences of independence.

"Commercial property investors must inevitably take account of the insecurity created by the independence risk. This risk to UK investors would include uncertainty about the political direction of a new country and the future of the Scottish economy."

But Scotland's public finance minister Kate Forbes said that in the the run-up to the 2014 referendum, the Scottish economy grew by 1.9% and foreign direct investment increased.

She said Scotland is the UK's "most attractive place to invest outside London."

Ms Forbes added: "Brexit currently remains the biggest threat to Scotland's economy. By taking us out of a market around eight times bigger than the UK alone, leaving the EU will cost jobs, make people poorer and undermine the democratic decision of the people of Scotland to remain in the European Union."

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union stepped up calls for Nicola Sturgeon to ditch plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

“It’s not only breaking up the UK that would cause economic damage to Scotland, just the continued threat itself of an unwanted second referendum continues to alarm investors," she said.