Scottish government must be less hostile to business, bank warns

RBS shares rose on today's news
RBS shares rose on today's news
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THE SCOTTISH government must adopt a business-friendly approach when it gains new powers or it will risk driving companies out of the country, an investment bank has warned.

Philip Shaw, an analyst at Investec, which has offices in Leeds and Sheffield, said the debate might have tempted some companies to shift their operations to England or Wales.

Anti-business rhetoric peaked this week when Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of the SNP, threatened oil giant BP with nationalisation and said bankers’ “casino days” would be over in an independent Scotland.

Mr Shaw told The Yorkshire Post: “There was a general air of uncertainty in the business community ahead of the vote and it would certainly help to settle any remaining nerves if the Scottish government made it clear that it would not seek another referendum and that it would adopt a business friendly approach once it gains greater budgetary powers.”

Scottish voters’ rejection of independence prompted a relief rally from investors worried at a break up of the United Kingdom.

Companies based in Scotland, such as RBS, utility SSE, engineering groups Weir and drink maker AG Barr, and those with Scottish clients, such as wealth manager St James’s Place, Schroders and fund platform Hargreaves Lansdown, rose 1 to 2 per cent. Shares of companies with significant exposure to North Sea oil industry also rose.

A vote for independence would have raised immediate questions over what currency Scotland would use and its position within the European Union.

Business leaders welcomed the outcome of the referendum.

Chris Hearld, the incoming northern chairman of accountancy firm KPMG, said a Yes vote would have created “massive uncertainty”. “We are a stronger economy for being together, rather than apart,” he added.

Mr Hearld said the UK must now focus on rebalancing its economy and becoming more competitive on the global stage.

Stuart Watson, senior partner at EY in Yorkshire, said the handing of greater powers to Scotland would fuel discussions about local devolution in England and Wales and urged Yorkshire business leaders to make sure they are part of the debate.

The CBI said politicians, businesses and citizens should unite to ensure a better future for all.