Referendum outcome won't affect us - SDC Trailers aims to stay close to hauliers
The Scottish trading partners of a major Northern Ireland manufacturer have said they hope their good relationships will continue to prosper regardless of the outcome of the independence referendum on September 18.
SDC Trailers has just announced a £3m contract over the next two years with one of Scotland's largest haulage companies, the Malcolm Group.
The contract is for 120 trailers and includes a joint development project to design an extending trailer which can transport additional pallets on the same lorry.
The Toomebridge firm has developed strong trading links with Scottish transport companies over the past decade and, while it is currently concentrating on expanding its European export market, a large part of its UK business portfolio is Scottish-based.
As well as trading with the Malcolm Group, SDC also deals with the Dumfries-based Currie-European Transport Ltd, the Russell Group in Glasgow and AR Craib, Aberdeen.
SDC Trailers is one of many Northern Irish companies trading with Scotland which will be awaiting with interest the result of the referendum on the future of Scotland.
If a majority of Scots vote for independence, businesses with Scottish customers could find themselves dealing with another tax system, another regulatory regime and even another currency.
But while SDC Trailers' Scottish trading partners did not wish to comment on the potential outcome of the vote and any economic repercussions it might have, they said they were hopeful that their relationships would continue to flourish.
A spokesman for the Malcolm Group declined to comment on the referendum but said: "We have been dealing with SDC Trailers for a long time now and we're hopeful this will continue for us for a long time to come."
The Currie-European Transport Groups Ltd was also reluctant to comment on the ramifications of independence, but said it enjoyed an "excellent" relationship with the Co Antrim company which produced most of its trailers.
A spokesman said: "We do a lot of work with SDC Trailers and have done so for long time.
"We have a large number of fleets, around 500 trailers, and around half of them are manufactured by SDC. SDC Trailers makes a good product that stands the test of time. We have an excellent relationship with this company and we hope that this continues indefinitely."
At the Glasgow-based Russell Group, a spokesman said he did not see the referendum affecting trading as it was a specialist company.
"I don't anticipate any standard business issues," he said. "Our suppliers are our suppliers, our customers are our customers. I can't see how the referendum would affect trade internally. We are a specialist company after all.
"The only issue that might arise is that of currency but the bottom line is that nobody knows what will happen." Paul Henry, chairman of the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, said that, irrespective of the referendum result, the important links between Northern Ireland and Scotland would not be forgotten.
"There is a rich history between our nations and, speaking from a business perspective, we should not lose sight of the vital link which brings countries together today, more than flags, identities or traditions, and that is trade and commerce," he said.
"Whether Scotland opts out of the UK or not, we in Northern Ireland should redouble our efforts to make Scotland an important trading partner and export location. There is a market right on our doorstep, an opportunity waiting to be developed.
"The Republic of Ireland is, of course, not part of the UK but it is one of our major export markets. It is a partner which helps us to secure thousands of jobs. There is no reason why Scotland, even outside of the UK, could not be just as important a partner for the Northern Ireland economy."
SDC Trailers said it expects a sharp rise in turnover from £130m to £170m by the end of March next year. The Malcolm Group deal comes just months after it secured a £10m contract with Hireco. And the company is expected to make a further announcement soon that could boost current levels of employment before the end of 2014.