We ask a panel of Scottish firms how they feel a referendum would affect business

Updated: How does the bike trade feel about Scottish Independence?

September will see a landmark vote threaten to split the centuries-old Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK. With several significant cycle companies based north of the border, how would a vote in favour of independence affect the bike trade? BikeBiz collates the opinions…

"The business arguments against independence I’ve seen so far are quite short-term – worries about which currency an independent Scotland will use, concerns about how quickly an independent Scotland will have EU membership, things like that. I think we need to be thinking longer term. Most people are agreed that the increasing inequality in the UK isnt’t good for most people, and neither is the increasing concentration of wealth in the City of London.

With independence, something can be done about that – there are plans to try to reindustrialise Scotland, which are perhaps over-ambitious, but it’s a good aim. It would not only help Scotland, it would act as a new focus of trade for the North of England too. We will have a currency to use, we will have EU membership, and we will have a strong economy – some temporary teething troubles need to be planned for, but should not influence the decision.

There is a lot of talk about unknowns – the worry is that there are too many unknowns with independence, but there are unknowns if Scotland stays in the UK too. As a business, I import from across Europe, and also sell to Europe as well – the biggest political concern I have at the moment is that the UK is moving away from Europe, and may well leave the EU. This would have a serious effect on my business, making it more expensive to both import and export.

This is too big to view it on purely business terms, however. The Westminster system of government is broken, with a lower house full of millionaires and an unelected upper house, and political parties all trying to outdo themselves to appeal to the narrow right-wing demographic that they think will give them power – meanwhile everyone else is turned off politics, and election turnout falls further and further. Something needs to be done about it, and the only option on the table is independence – I would have preferred a federal system of government for the whole UK, but that’s not been offered. Will my daughter grow up as I did, feeling that there was little point voting as our votes had no influence? I hope not. Will she grow up with huge sums being spent on nuclear weapons based less than 30 miles from our house, instead of on schools and hospitals? I hope that won’t happen either."

Ben Cooper, onwer of Kinetics in Glasgow

“I have a pretty simple view on the Scottish Independence referendum: “No to independence”. The reason being is that as it stands, there is no clear business plan or strategy that demonstrates an improvement to the quality of life for my family or my colleagues, now or for future generations. Everything is speculation, there are far too many unknowns.

I am hugely patriotic, proud to be Scottish, but more so, I feel privileged to be British.

I can’t comment on whether it will be good or bad for trade, there is a lack of qualitative information to form an educated opinion. Who knows what it would look like if we were independent, we don’t even know if we would be using the GBP or Euro. Whatever happens we will ensure that irrespective of the result, we will do what is necessary to ensure that our business does not suffer. We have a clear strategy for 2pure and Nine Point Nine and part of our vision is to be adaptable, nimble and flexible.”
George Bowie
Managing Director, 2pure

“The first thing to say is that with a name like Jim McFarlane and a company that manufactures in Scotland, markets itself internationally on its “Scottishness” and holds dearly in its own identity a number of Scottish traits, it is perhaps no surprise that the company is proud to describe itself as Scottish. At the same time it also needs to be recognised that we all live together in one small island, share a language and overarching common culture and have many centuries of prosperity and successas part of the Union to reflect upon.

When put in this context, it is hard to imagine how future generations of Scots will comprehend the narrow argument of short-term economic gain from oil that is put forward as the primary rationale for Scottish Independence. It is also a depressingly self-centred argument and hard to see where national fragmentation will end if followed through to conclusion; perhaps Grampian/Aberdeen could break away from Scotland and then The Shetland Islands could break away from that in order to gain ever larger shares of the oil fields.

From a business perspective, Endura’s sales within Scotland represent around two per cent of its global sales, whereas other EC territories – including England, Wales and Ireland – account for over 70 per cent of its sales.
If Scotland were to become independent and if its accession to the EC was then denied – most likely through veto by Spain and Italy in order to suppress similar scenarios arising in their own countries – our business model simply wouldn’t work in its current form as the customs process for trading directly with bike stores throughout Europe would be unworkable, just as it is in Norway currently.

This would most likely culminate in Endura creating a subsidiary company within the EC that was the trading arm of the company and which would manage all traded goods, warehousing and logistics. Clearly there would be implications for jobs at Endura within Scotland and this is particularly disappointing for a company that has until now prided itself in consistently growing its Scottish employment through long-term export growth and in historically investing in product development and manufacturing in Scotland.

Ironically, Endura’s Scottish retail customers, being outside the EC, would likely have additional delays, processing costs and import duties on goods even if they had originally been manufactured in our facility in Scotland as all stock items would be held at one location for consolidation and despatch efficiency and that would be in our warehouse location inside the EC where most sales are.

Endura currently has plans drawn up to extend its warehousing facility at its HQ in Livingston and is progressing this through to the building warrant stage, however no commitment to start the physical work will be made unless the referendum in September rejects independence or, if Scotland becomes independent, until Brussels confirms that entry to the EC will be granted to Scotland as an independent country. That could be a long time…”
Jim McFarlane
Director, Endura

“A separation between Scotland and the rest of the UK would undoubtedly bring complexity to our business as we would have cross border issues with key administrative processes such as employment and transportation. None of these would be insurmountable. We work hard to root our stores in the local communities in which we are based, running local events and supporting local business and cycling initiatives.

We see our stores as being part of a local community and so would not anticipate any trading impact from store to store. In terms of our staff group and owners of our Co-operative we are very much a broad church and we span many geographical areas as well as political views.”
Jeremy Miles
Managing Director,
Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative

In other news...

Bikedesk hits UK market at full speed

Bikedesk, the market-leading bike shop EPOS system from Denmark, is now increasing its focus on …