Independence referendum ‘could be a good thing’ claims leading businessman

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By G.A.Ponsonby

A former chairman of the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) has claimed that the planned independence referendum may “be a good thing” for firms investing in Scotland.

Malcolm Naish, who stepped down as chairman of the SPF last week, also said that he knows of no investors who have reconsidered investing in Scotland because of Scottish government plans to hold the independence referendum.

Mr Naish was being interviewed on Radio Scotland when he was asked whether in his experience the referendum was making investors think twice.

Mr Naish replied: “I haven’t seen that as yet, no”

Mr Naish went on to say that any change to devolution or more devolved powers represents a degree of uncertainty and said that not knowing the ballot question or the outcome would, he thought, see investors being more cautious.

However, in a further blow to Unionist claims, the leading businessman also insisted that the holding of a referendum could in fact be beneficial.

Mr Naish said that clarity of process was desirable and added: “It’s just the uncertainty about what it might mean going forward.  It could of course be a good thing, it doesn’t mean that it would necessarily be a bad thing, it’s just the uncertainty that would come with that.

“I think the sooner the market has clarity about how that will evolve then the easier it will be for investors to make investment decisions.”

Mr Naish’s admission that in the six months since the Scottish election he has heard of no investors who have reconsidered investing in Scotland, is a blow to Unionists who say that firms are expressing concerns.

Tory Chancellor George Osborne and Labour MP Willie Bain have both claimed that major companies have told them that they are reluctant to invest in Scotland because of ‘referendum uncertainties’.  Willie Bain even claimed to know of a financial institution that switched its investment plans from Scotland to England.

However, thus far, both politicians have refused to name the firms and no companies have come forward.  Even more bizarrely, none of the companies has contacted the Scottish government in order to air their concerns.

The Scottish government has called on Unionists, who include CBI Scotland Director Iain McMillan, to provide examples of those firms they say are expressing worries.

In response to Unionist claims, the Scottish government has provided a list of internationally renowned companies who have recently invested north of the border.

Hear Malcolm Naish being interviewed here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b017pd2q/Business_Scotland_27_11_2011/
The relevant comments begin at 17 mins 43 seconds.

Newsnet Scotland comment:
Mr Naish’s interview was reported on by the BBC moments before the Radio programme containing the interview was aired.  The online article focussed heavily on Mr Naish’s comments on the referendum and also his concerns about the Scottish government’s ‘health tax’ on large retailers who sell alcohol and tobacco.

However, the article made no mention of Mr Naish’s claim that a referendum might be a good thing.  It also omitted Mr Naish’s admission that he knew of no companies who had expressed concerns over the scheduling of the independence referendum.

Such editorial decisions are doing the BBC in Scotland no favours and questions should be asked as to why such vitally important aspects of the interview appear to have been deliberately omitted from the online article, which is heavily sympathetic to Unionist claims of ‘investment concern’, given that not everyone will have heard the interview or sought out the BBC i-player recording.