TOMORROW’S Scottish independence referendum will raise major issues for the North East whichever way the result goes.
That’s the message from North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith as millions of Scots prepare to vote on whether to break the ties that have bound Scotland and England for more than 300 years.
With the Scottish Parliament set to be handed far more powers even in the event of a No vote tomorrow, political change north of the border would have a knock-on effect in the region regardless of the result, said Mr Smith.
“There are many questions yet to be answered in the Scottish independence debate, but the most important is how any future change across the border will impact on North East business,” he said.
“There is no doubt that an economically vibrant Scotland is good for the North East, but there is a lack of clarity and reassurance that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, the transition will be managed in a way that makes continuity of trade as easy as possible.”
Uncertainty surrounding the future shape of relations between England and Scotland was already having a detrimental impact on business, he added.
“A snap poll of chamber members revealed that 12 per cent of companies are putting off investment ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.
“We need our businesses to continue investing to sustain the recovery – the uncertainty that the referendum has created needs to be minimised.
“Quite rightly, it will be the Scottish people who will decide their own future but just how that future impacts on our companies remains to be seen.”
North East Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Paul Woolston said North East businesses had to be ready to work with a new, more powerful and self-confident Scotland, whether or not it remained within the UK:
“Our region’s common borders and natural cultural ties mean that, whatever the outcome of this week’s referendum, we want to see a strong Scotland going forward,” he said.
“The North East needs to be strategic in its outlook to make the most of well-established relationships in its future dealings with the Scottish business community and public sector.
“We trade well with our competitors, including Scotland.
“We should aim to find where we can strengthen alliances and joint ventures, and pursue synergies from infrastructure investment between the North East and our near neighbours as a priority.
“This week’s focus on an increasingly assertive Scotland underlines the importance of the North East effectively co-ordinating its efforts to appeal to private and public sectors in Scotland, the UK and globally to create new investment and more, better jobs in our region.”