Scots Business Chiefs Want Strong Leadership

24 June 2016, 15:12 | Updated: 24 June 2016, 15:13

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The UK and devolved governments must show strong leadership to stabilise the economy following the decision to quit the European Union, business and industry chiefs have said.

They said the result has produced "significant uncertainty'' and will cause a "sense of shock'' in boardrooms.

While Scots voted overwhelmingly for remaining part of the EU, voters in England and Wales swung the vote for Leave.

The result means the Scottish Government will now prepare legislation to enable it to take forward a second independence referendum, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: "While a second independence referendum will undoubtedly bring added uncertainty, the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland also need to be acknowledged.''

Business leaders said there are more immediate priorities.

Russell Gunson, director of think-tank IPPR Scotland, said: "This result risks huge damage to Scotland's economy over the coming months and years.

"Tourism, financial services, whisky, our oil and gas sector - key economic sectors in Scotland and the UK - will now face a long period of damaging uncertainty that will undoubtedly cost jobs and livelihoods across Scotland.''

As the result sent the financial markets into meltdown, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland said the decision would "create a sense of shock in Britain's boardrooms''.

Chief executive Anton Colella stressed the need to "respect the democratic will of the British people'', calling on the Government to "act swiftly and decisively to bring clarity to key questions for business which were never answered during the campaign''.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "The priority for Scotland now is for our governments and businesses to carry on and show great leadership in order to stabilise the markets and begin to plan our new relationship with Europe.''

Andy Willox, FSB's Scottish policy convener, said: "Scottish smaller businesses now need decision-makers to focus on economic stability.

"Firms in Scotland will look to the Scottish Government as well as the UK Government and the Bank of England to provide leadership during this period.

"While questions about a second independence referendum will inevitably dominate the headlines, there are more immediate matters for small firms - from clarity over access to the single market to the free movement of people.''

Sarah Speirs, director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland, said: "First ministers in the devolved nations are expected to play their part in providing this reassurance.

"Therefore, despite talk of a future referendum for Scotland, we must adopt a collaborative UK approach when detailing the strategy for the UK's exit.''

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "The process of leaving the EU will inevitably generate significant uncertainty.

"Of course, we are confident Scotch whisky will remain the pre-eminent international spirit drink.

"But, equally, there are serious issues to resolve in areas of major importance to our industry and which require urgent attention, notably the nature of future trade arrangements with both the single market and the wider world.''

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "The result of the referendum brings both opportunities and challenges for the fishing industry, and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation will be doing everything in its power to ensure that the best possible deal is achieved for fishing during the exit negotiations.''

Other organisations commented on the consequences of the vote.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said the result is a "huge challenge to decades of progress on improving the environment and tackling climate change''.

National Union of Students Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan said: "In the coming weeks and months it is vital that the UK Government works closely with the devolved governments, and with all of us who stood up proudly for our EU membership, ensuring we do all we can to stem the damaging consequences we know this result could have.''

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, of the Church of Scotland, said: "The UK has made a momentous decision but it must not be construed as us pulling up the drawbridge.

"We are citizens of Europe and the world - and our future and the future of others is dependent upon us working together.''