Scotland’s choice

Blog post   •   Sep 18, 2014 12:44 BST

As of this writing, Scots are now heading to the polls for a historic independence referendum. The campaign leading to this day has been impassioned with both sides presenting their competing visions of Scotland. Nationalists have framed an emotional appeal based on Scottish heritage and how an independent Scotland will make its mark in the world. Unionists, equally as passionate, focused on Scotland’s unique contributions to the ‘family of nations’ in the United Kingdom and how continued union benefits Scots and the rest of this British family.

As a foreigner living in the UK, I have witnessed this campaign first-hand and was struck by the active participation of Scots (and Brits) in this debate. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: self-determination has always been a political question and best left to the sovereign wisdom of the people. Both sides have realized this and have made their appeals accordingly.

While essentially a political issue, the Scottish referendum carries significant consequences for the conduct of business on both sides of the border. Claims of nationalist campaigners as to the effects of Scottish independence have been repeatedly scrutinized given that it entails many changes. On the other hand, continued union has its own set of consequences given that the three main political parties have pledged significant powers to Edinburgh should they vote ‘no’ today. It is increasingly clear that the status quo is not an option and Scotland is likely to emerge from this referendum with a greater range of powers. This affects business in many ways from paying for their taxes, planning for their supply chains, to sourcing fuel and power, among many others.

Hence, it is necessary for business based in the UK – and those with significant interests in the UK – to plan for their operations either way. With polls too close to call, business cannot be left unprepared and hoping that things stay the same. Whether Scotland becomes independent or stays as part of the UK, the momentum is shifting towards more powers to Edinburgh. Scotland tomorrow will likely emerge with more clout and this presents impacts to businesses on both sides of the border.

While fundamentally an issue of self-determination, it is interesting to note that this campaign’s primary battleground was over the economy. This is a strong clue to how the resulting political settlement is likely to emerge. As such, this will affect business long after the votes are cast and organizations must scan their horizon for the risks and opportunities this may bring.

Patrick Alcantara Patrick Alcantara is a Research Associate for the Business Continuity Institute who joined after finishing a Masters in Lifelong Learning with distinction from the Institute of Education (University of London) and Deusto University.