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Shipping outlook grim for independent Scotland, survey finds

Shipping outlook grim for independent Scotland, survey finds
A survey by London shipping accountancy firm and consultancy Moore Stephens has found 55% of respondents predicted a damaging effect for the Scottish shipping and offshore sector if the country becomes independent from the UK.

In a summary of its findings, Moore Stephens noted that it was the 45% of the respondents included in the survey with existing business ties to Scotland which were, in fact, the most pessimistic about the country’s ability to effectively manage its maritime sector, with 69% of this group rating the impact of independence as “negative”.

Many answers were unequivocally damning of the Scottish National Party’s move for independence, with respondents variously asserting that they had “no confidence that a Scottish government would properly take account of shipping’s needs” and that Scotland “does not have the necessary infrastructure to replace the UK Merchant Marine”, while others described the bid as “a total disaster that we are not prepared to handle” and “somewhere between madness and childishness.”

Various respondents also predicted a decline in UK Continental Shelf exploration and production as a result of the move.

A number of respondents predicted that businesses would move south of the border if the newly independent Scotland did not offer competitive tax advantages, and that the nation’s only hope would be to “join the dots linking the likes of taxation, finance, corporate structures and tonnage tax". “Everyone is looking for customer-friendly places and flags to register their vessels," replied one of those surveyed.

In fact, two thirds of respondents believed that a decision to move away from the British Pound Sterling (£) would be damaging to business pertaining to the offshore continental shelf, with currency deemed by 25% of respondents to be the most important factor in Scotland’s success as an independent nation. This was followed by taxation (24%), the oil and gas industry (16%), entry into Europe (14%), tonnage tax eligibility conditions (11%), border control (6%) and security policy (4%).

Meanwhile it was found that 57% of voters with no business ties to Scotland considered Scottish independence might positively affect its shipping, asserting it would help “the shipping sector… develop more quickly”,  that it would “increase opportunities” and lead to “high confidence levels” in the maritime sector, would “concentrate the mind on how better to support the offshore oil and gas sector”, “help re-entry into the commercial and naval shipbuilding markets,” and would be “guaranteed to prosper” in the European market.

Other comments emphasised the need for an independent Scotland to be perceived as “customer-friendly” and to “cut away the ballast and stay tuned to the needs of the shipping sector.”

“The survey revealed a high level of interest in the likely impact of Scottish independence on the shipping and offshore maritime sector,” said Moore Stephens director of shipping and offshore maritime, Cassie Forman. “Unsurprisingly, issues such as currency, the taxation system, tonnage tax and the ability of Scotland to administer an efficient and cost-effective shipping administration dominated the comments from respondents.

“The survey was very international in its scope. This is important because, irrespective of the outcome of the vote on 18 September, Scotland will be looking to strengthen its position in what is arguably the world’s most international industry. It is worth bearing in mind the observation from one respondent that, ‘People in Latin America do not differentiate between Scotland and the rest of the UK.’ We shall soon know whether the rest of us will need to do so.”

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