How will Scottish independence affect contractors?

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The impending Scottish Referendum has thrown up numerous questions among large businesses, both in Scotland and the rest of the UK - if the nation does vote ‘yes’, how will that affect them? For contractors, the question is very much the same, with questions surrounding what would happen with regards to tax, pensions and regulations, among other aspects of contracting. 

Ahead of the historic vote - scheduled to take place tomorrow (September 18th), the Scottish Chambers of Commerce called for businesses to pull together, whatever the outcome. 

Chief executive Liz Cameron noted that whichever way the vote swings, a substantial number of people will be left disappointed, but emphasised that the outcome must not be defined “in terms of winners and losers”. 

She commented: “Whichever direction the people of Scotland choose in Thursday's referendum, one thing is clear: on Friday, we must all come together to drive Scotland forward, either as an independent nation or as part of the United Kingdom.”

“We will not benefit as a nation if almost half of our people do not feel part of the future that we have determined for ourselves,” she added.

According to the Scottish government, independence would see the nation use its new powers to achieve higher levels of growth and job opportunities. It would do this by putting a strong external focus on competing in the global economy, as well as using technology and manufacturing to foster high levels of trust and cut income inequality. It would also aim to encourage a stronger and shared sense of national purpose, improving workforce skills and opportunities, particularly when it comes to women and young children. 

However, business leaders have thrown doubt on the future of businesses in both Scotland and the UK if the former should become independent. 

More than 120 captains of industry last month urged Scotland to vote no in the referendum, claiming the economic case for independence has not been adequately made, and stating that uncertainty is surrounding a number of vital issues. 

In an open letter published in the Scotsman, which was signed by leaders including HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, Co-operative Bank chief executive Niall Booker, and dozens of Scottish bosses, they wrote that while they had looked carefully at the arguments made by both sides of the debate, their conclusion was that “the business case for independence has not been made”. 

It continued:  "Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world; and uncertainty is bad for business."

The letter also noted that Scotland’s economy is currently on the up, as the country attracts record investment and enjoys a high employment rate. 

Businesses of all shapes and sizes, from large conglomerations to micro-businesses and limited company contractors, have all been watching the debate with interest and considering the best action to take in the event of either a yes or no vote. 

Matt Fryer, compliance manager at Brookson, said: "There is an element of uncertainty about the impact of Scotland becoming independent, and of course, once the vote has taken place we will have a clearer indication of the impact relating to Scottish companies. 

“In the meantime, it is still very much business as usual and if there are any subsequent changes arising in respect of the vote, we anticipate that these will be made on a gradual basis. 

“We will, of course, assist you with any potential changes which may arise and we will advise you of same once this element of uncertainty is removed later this week - if you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch."

By Victoria McDonnell

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