With the tension rising in the final countdown to the Scottish referendum on September 18th, business leaders are scrambling to quell the fears of their members about the more difficult trading conditions that are anticipated. With the 2008 recession still fresh in their minds, it’s no wonder that many are worried about their survival. In response, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) launched a new guide* on Tuesday in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh business school to help guide businesses through the maze of uncertainty.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, has said, “Forty percent of Scottish small businesses say that better referendum information could sway their vote but most businesses suggest the information provided by the campaigns doesn’t answer the questions that matter to them. 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. We hope that our concise document helps our members make a more informed choice without pretending to provide the mirage of answers where none can exist.”
Some of the concerns they highlighted include:
• while a Yes vote might mean a better chance of securing public-sector contracts in Scotland, they’d lose out on deals with the rest of the UK
• will they need to increase prices to cover expected higher costs of doing business?
• will their mortgage rates rise as the cost of developing and marketing new mortgage products are spread across a smaller market of 5.3 million people.
• increasing postage and transportation costs, as Scotland would have to set up a new postal service, along with potentially increased costs of maintaining the transportation network
• uncertainty over which currency will be used in the event of independence
Trading conditions are expected to be further exacerbated if Salmond makes good on his threat to walk away from Scotland’s share of the UK debt if Chancellor George Osborne doesn’t allow Scotland to use the pound. Some small businesses have been advised to set up offices in England as a precaution to overcome potential difficulties in the event of a Yes vote.
In a speech to business leaders on Wednesday, David Cameron pointed out that Scottish exporters would lose the benefits and help of British embassies around the world in brokering local business deals.
A Scottish Research Society spokesperson says:
“With some businesses only just beginning to get back on their feet after weathering the dire economic conditions after the 2008 recession, the last thing they need is more instability and uncertainty. It’s no good just hoping for the best; they deserve clear facts and accurate figures. Scottish voters need to go to the poll with more clarity on the key issues and this will only happen if the politicians stop the mudslinging and behave like adults, not petulant children.”