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Scottish retailers voice ‘yes’ vote fears

Concern among Scottish retailers is mounting over the impending vote on independence next month, with uncertainty over currency and corporation tax rates playing on the minds of many.

Tensions north of the border are rising as Scotland prepares to vote on September 18 on whether it should become independent from the rest of the UK. Postal voting opened this week (August 27).

Harris Tweed Hebrides chief executive Ian Angus MacKenzie joined a list of more than 130 high-profile Scottish businessmen this week who signed an open letter stating the business case for Scottish independence “has not been made”.

The letter reportedly said: “Uncertainty is bad for business. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”

Independent retailers told Drapers they were increasingly concerned about the outcome of the vote, suggesting a move to independence could result in increased taxes, interest rates and regulation.

Richard McLaughlin, owner of menswear store Attic in Aberdeen, said: “We’re quite concerned; there are so many outstanding and unresolved issues still to be decided. We’re completely and utterly in the dark on what currency we would be using, on import and export taxes, on how we will buy and sell our stock, the corporation tax rates, the bigger picture on finance and borrowing is still unclear and I don’t know if we will have control over our own interest rates.”

The owner of a womenswear independent in Edinburgh, said: “There are pros and cons for both sides of the debate but if Scotland was to go yes then it would be a huge challenge in terms of making businesses viable for trade, and I don’t think Scotland could rise to it.

“I’m still undecided on my vote. It may be a good thing, but for us independent retailers it’s now just a case of waiting to see what happens.”

Sam Withall, managing director of womenswear retailer Sam Brown, which has stores in Edinburgh and St Andrews, said: “To be honest, I don’t want independence. I’m worried about import duties we might be imposed with, I don’t know what currency we’ll be using and even if we are going to be a part of Europe or not, the kind of tax that will be levied at independent retailers such as myself or even the business and the corporation tax going forward. Even the business rates are so uncertain.

“We have a store in Edinburgh where most of my customers are in the financial sector, and most of them are leaving. I now have the added problem of a dwindling customer base as well, so for me my ideal outcome would be to remain a part of the union.” 

The yes campaign argues an independent Scotland would boost businesses by promoting Scottish exports and encouraging greater innovation.

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