Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

Independence is still a simply capital prospect

Independence is still a simply capital prospect

Three and a half months on from Brexit and things are still as clear as mud. David Davies’ statement in the House of Commons this week told us literally nothing about how the Government intends to leave the EU. He talks of a Great Reform Bill, but seems to have no idea what should be in it.

Little wonder people are anxious. Many, from some unlikely quarters, are now asking if it might not be easier for Scotland just to become an independent country after all. Things are clearly going to change. The UK most Scots voted for in 2014 will not exist. The deal has changed. Perhaps the best way to give certainty to our businesses and citizens is to just go for it.

As the nights draw in and this discussion unfolds in the workplaces, pubs and homes of the city I really hope, unlike last time, we can think imaginatively about what independence could mean for Edinburgh.


It struck me as ironic that the one city which stood to benefit more than most from independence, voted against it in greater numbers than elsewhere. Being the capital of an independent country is a much bigger deal than being a big city in the UK.

For starters, every consulate will upgrade to an embassy and many countries that do not see the need to have representation here at the moment will undoubtedly do so. More than a thousand well-paying jobs would be established in the diplomatic sector and its support staff.

Edinburgh is already home to a large number of global companies, and has a thriving new tech sector. The existing new fintech sector employs over 17,000 people in Edinburgh, and the city hosts the offices of companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Skyscanner, Dell, Rockstar and Toshiba.

Major global companies will want to ensure that they are represented in an independent Scotland and without doubt most of them will seek to open office in Edinburgh to be near the constitutional centre. Again, even without production being transferred, this will create well paid jobs in public affairs, finance and administration.

But the biggest benefits could come to our already well developed financial sector, currently the largest after London. It added £4.5 billion to the UK economy in 2011, and almost 40,000 people are employed in financial services in Edinburgh. Over 30 banks have operations in the city, three of the UK’s leading insurance companies have their headquarters in Edinburgh – Standard Life, Scottish Widows and Aegon UK; six of the largest asset fund managers in the world have operations in Edinburgh and over £500 billion of assets under management in the city.

But the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the Tory government’s appetite for a “hard Brexit” in which we also leave the Single Market, is endangering financial services jobs in the UK. Crucial to the presence of financial services companies in London and Edinburgh is the EU principle of ‘passporting’ – which allows them to access the European Single Market without restrictions. A total of 5476 UK-registered firms hold at least one passport to do business in another member state of the EU or the wider European Economic Area. A hard Brexit puts this in jeopardy.

With independence inside the EU, or at least the Single Market, Scotland and Edinburgh could be an even more attractive location for these companies fleeing London. We speak English, we are already a financial centre, and we already have local workforces who have skills in financial services. We could fully exploit the opportunity to persuade these financial institutions to locate in Edinburgh and unleash Edinburgh’s potential as a global financial centre.

Of course, in an independent Scotland we’d have full powers over banking regulations and can make sure big business pays its fair share in tax so the mistakes of the past need not be repeated and we’d reap the benefits of these sectors.

And all of this is before we even start talking about a possible Scottish currency and central bank which now looks like an increasingly attractive option in an independent Scotland. Guess where that would be headquartered? I’m not asking the sceptics in the finance industry who backed Better Together to suddenly put on a Yes badge and join a campaign. But I am saying have a think about it. Things may not be as you thought they were.

First published in the Edinburgh Evening News - 13th October 2016

Debate on House of Lords reform and the size of th...
SNP members must decide if they want to expand or ...

Related Posts

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Thursday, 19 July 2018

Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
11 July 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media

We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.

We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.

Tommy Sheppard
21 June 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
Brexit rumbles on. Last week the SNP walked out of parliament in protest at not being allowed to discuss House of Lords amendments that will seriously affect how we are governed. If we can’t have our say inside the chamber we’ll make our arguments outside.Meanwhile the UK government say we’re scaremongering. What power grab say the Tories? They claim that the Scottish government will get more powe...
Tommy Sheppard
15 June 2018
Tommy's Blog
Buckle up folks – here comes a bumper blog as this week saw the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill after its time in the Lords. Or, more accurately, we were back voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill given there was precious little time for any actual debate. Over two days we were supposed to debate and vote on 20 different changes to the Bill that the Lords had put forward.You’ll likely have seen and he...
Tommy Sheppard
19 May 2018
Tommy's Blog
Okay I know that it’s probably not the best time to try to start a discussion about the monarchy. With a popular prince wedding his celebrity sweetheart in a lavish event resplendent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it might be best for dissidents like myself to keep our republican heads below the parapet.Then again, with the nation’s attention focused on the royals because of the wedding, t...
Tommy Sheppard
02 May 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
This is a piece about the SNP’s constitutional review. Exciting, huh? Well, maybe not, but important all the same.I know – at least I hope – no-one joins a political party to debate its internal structure. And set against debates on Indy, Brexit and the World War III this is unlikely to get anyone’s political juices flowing. People are motivated by ideas and feelings, powerful emotions that propel...