Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Could Northern Ireland thrive due to independent Scotland?

TNS found that among those who say they are certain to vote, 46 per cent back the Union, while 37 per cent support independence
TNS found that among those who say they are certain to vote, 46 per cent back the Union, while 37 per cent support independence

Scotland's economy may be ailing under the weight of uncertainty before the make-or-break plebiscite for the future of the Union, according to research by Capital Economics.

But on the flip side, researchers speculate that there could be a rush of investment post-vote as firms implement previously postponed plans.

Capital Economics said output was slowing down in Scotland, which could reflect concerns about the vote.

Annual growth of Scottish GDP of 2.6% was below the UK's 3% – Northern Ireland's experimental economic composite index, our equivalent of GDP, was up by only 1.6%.

The survey gives voice to some fears by commentators in the latest edition of sister publication Business Month that the debate so far has been more emotional than factual.

Tom MacLennan of FRP Advisory told Business Month that there was an attitude of "it will be alright on the night". He said: "We aren't being given very much detail on how the main issues will be dealt with. I think it is a deliberate move to keep the decision simple".

His point of view was echoed yesterday by Labour MP Ian Murray, part of the pro-UK Better Together campaign.

He said the Capital Economics report "confirms that Alex Salmond's failure to answer key economic questions about the consequences of separation is having a negative impact on Scotland today".

As for the Union, his attitude was "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", adding: "Firms in Scotland have barrier-free access to a UK single market of more than 63 million people, rather than just five million people in Scotland.

"Where is the sense in creating a barrier between Scottish businesses and their customers elsewhere in the UK?"

But Paul Henry, chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, has said he believes an independent Scotland can serve Northern Ireland's interests well. He points out that we already deal with a neighbouring EU country which operates in a different currency, so why balk at trading with an independent Scotland, which could be in the euro? In fact, our experience of trading with the south could give us an advantage.

Could Scotand's independence be Northern Ireland's opportunity? Let's get the conversation started and see how we can make the most of the situation.

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