1. Ian Grant opened the meeting by welcoming everybody, and introduced our speakers, Michelle Thomson and Roger Mullin on the subject of Brexit: what might it mean for business in Scotland?
2. A Livestream is available for people who couldn’t make the meeting.
3. Apologies: Rene Hamilton
4. There were 22 attendees. Email addresses given will be added to the mailing list unless anyone objects.
5. Michelle and Roger jointly presented their views on a lack of analysis into the impact of Brexit on business in Scotland, as a result of which they have joined forces to launch their own consultancy, Momentous Change. They have researched business attitudes and needs across a wide range of businesses, and a report of their findings has just been published. While SMEs are “waiting for an illusive certainty”, the largest businesses are best prepared and the smallest are the least prepared. They noted the lack of UK Government planning on Brexit (certainly nothing comparable to the 700 page “Scotland’s Future”) – when they asked for the 17 UK Government papers published to date on Brexit, they were surprised to find it amounted to an inch high, and was “remarkably superficial”. If you take the single issue of leaving the Customs Union, and businesses having to operate on WTO rules, it is estimated by HMRC that they would need 5,000 extra staff (50 million pieces of EU documentation would spiral to 155 million). Dover currently processes 10,000 lorries a day at an average of 2 per minute – if this were to double, there would be 17 mile tailbacks on the roads. There are 26 separate agencies involved in borders inspections – tax, immigration, health and safety etc. The level of planning to absorb this momentous change in this one area is clearly inadequate for the complexity that businesses will face, and businesses are facing a huge amount of uncertainty, and instability, as a result – what scenario are they supposed to plan for? The most important business asks of the UK Government are to establish transition arrangements specifically geared to assisting businesses, and to make explicit those matters that will be devolved. Their most important asks of the Scottish Government are to make explicit how it would seek to use any new devolved powers (difficult, since no clarity exists on this), and to increase direct engagement with the business community. The report indicates an urgent need for the Scottish Government to actively encourage joint efforts involving Scottish Enterprise, the relevant academic communities and business organisations in scaling up briefings on Brexit for the business community. These efforts should go beyond general briefings and involve practical workshops on surveying staff and skill needs, scenario planning and financial modelling. Based on the responses so far, it is estimated that 10% of businesses are in favour of Brexit, and 90% against.
6. There then ensued a lively question and answer session.
- AOCB: Ian finished with some announcements:
7.1 Launch of the NYR Indy App for your Android or iOS phone.
7.2 A report on the SIC Conference (6 of the group attended)
7.3 Anti-nuclear weapons group Ican winning the Nobel Peace Prize
7.4 Peter Lynch’s new book
7.5 And a note of future events:
Mon 4 Dec (Newliston Arms 7.30pm): Stewart McDonald MP on “Defence in an Independent Scotland”
25 Nov (Broughton High School) Pensioners for Independence Edinburgh conference
16 Dec (Dunblane) Local group conference to discuss the SIC conference
7 Jan (Banshee Labyrinth) Film night – Atlantic
3 Feb (Waterside social club) YES Edinburgh and Lothians meeting
5 Feb (Newliston Arms) Audrey Birt – how to speak about independence in the future
You’ll find us on Yes Edinburgh West website, Facebook , National Yes Registry and Twitter. Have a look at our Eflets, book previews, film previews and our Library of topics on Scottish Politics, including Independence.