WITH the dust settling on the independence referendum result, leading industry figures say the focus should now be on Scotland’s future.
Construction intelligence specialists, Barbour ABI, warned that a ‘Yes’ vote could potentially have put over £7 billion of planned works in jeopardy, with many investors in high-value projects based outside Scotland.
David Melhuish, Director of the Scottish Property Federation, said, “The uncertainty over Scotland’s constitutional future is now settled and it is important political certainty is regained if market confidence is to be secured in the commercial property sector.
“Certainty on the content and substance of the political parties’ proposals to enhance the powers of Holyrood and a commitment by the Scottish Government to work constructively with this process is vital if we are to ensure normal business and investment activity in the wake of the uncertainties expressed during the campaign.”
Ed Monaghan, Chair of Construction Scotland, added, “Now is an ideal time to reaffirm our focus on long-term planning for the continued success of our industry. Now that the people of Scotland have said yes to remaining an integral part of the UK we will continue to focus on these long-term objectives, working in partnership with both the UK and Scottish Governments. We are proud of our positive, long-standing working relationship with Nicola Sturgeon, and look forward to continuing that.
“Inevitably over the last six months or so there has been a concentration on the referendum process, so now we have the decision it is time to intensify attention on growing the Scottish economy, using the momentum which the referendum generated, with the construction industry having a significant role to play here.”
Ed Monaghan added, “Within hours of the result being announced we have seen, for example, the housing market inundated with homes for sale after a few slow months – this is good news for the housing sector and for construction as a whole and I have no doubt that the months ahead will see all parts of the industry secure and deliver even more business.
“With the Scottish government already having devolved responsibility for our industry and other associated areas we already have the blueprint in place for taking them forward – we now need to concentrate on working together to achieve these goals and ensure a robust and buoyant construction industry continues to flourish here in Scotland.”
Walter Boettcher, director of research and forecasting with Colliers International, a global leader in commercial real estate services, said that uncertainty has been lifted for businesses on both sides of the border.
“While the ‘No’ vote suggests that little has changed, in reality we may be seeing the beginnings of a fundamental shift UK-wide between Local Governments and Central Government,” Mr Boettcher said. “The referendum has highlighted how a new balance of local and central powers and decision making must evolve to accommodate local aspirations and perceptions of economic opportunity.
“Regions must have the power to determine their own economic strategies and exploit what they see as their competitive advantages.
“Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom, but it will be a Scotland that will join in unison with other UK regions who have also been seeking greater self-determination in regional policy making.
“From a narrow business perspective, economic and financial confidence has perhaps regained its balance and this will drive higher levels of activity as pent up demand and projects shelved temporarily will be dusted off and pushed through. Certainly property sector leasing and investment transactions see a decisive boost.
“From a broader strategic business perspective, given international appetite for infrastructural development by sovereign wealth funds in a very low interest rate environment, the opportunity for commercial real estate investment and development is staggering and may sustain activity levels well beyond the normal limits of traditional property cycles.”