Orkney businesses were briefed over breakfast on Tuesday 24th January on the implications for them of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Bill Jamieson, who describes himself as a newspaper man through and through is the founder of Scot-Buzz, a business news website.
Under the Business Improvement Growth (BIG) fund he had been invited by Business Gateway Orkney to deliver a talk over the economic consequences for business with Brexit. Participants in the event held in the Lynnfield Hotel heard Bill Jamieson’s forecast for the future for trade outside the EU single market and were able to quiz him on local concerns.
Mr Jamieson a past executive editor of The Scotsman was also the economics columnist for the Scotland on Sunday and prior to that was economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph. He was a regular contributor to the Spectator Business magazine and City AM. He also commentates on business and economics affairs for BBC Scotland.
Commenting on the Scottish Government’s paper ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’, Mr Jamieson cast doubts on the figures used and criticised the influence of the Standing Council of Europe in the formulation of the paper which he felt was too pro-EU and not informed enough by business interests.
Mr Jamieson thinks businesses in the 27 remaining EU countries will want low tariffs with the UK after Brexit and sees the UK making a deal for being part of the European Economic Area (EEA) as a strong possibility. He did not address the problem that this would have to include the free movement of people, which the UK Government has rejected.
The work of the cross party Scottish Parliament’s committee, CTEER, which continues to take evidence from all sectors of Scotland on the implications of Brexit did not reflect on the views of the business community said Mr Jamieson. He did not think that the loss of ‘good will’ felt by the citizens of the 27 remaining EU states would last long citing how well EU relations are with Norway.
In October 2016 it was announced that small and medium sized enterprises in Scotland will benefit from £60million of investment covering upwards of 20,000 businesses. In Orkney this amounts to £201,500 the total spend with match funding coming in at £403,000. Commenting at the time Councillor Stephen Hagan, Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability, COSLA said:
“This additional funding will be a huge boost to Scotland’s SME community and will allow us to build on a successful year that saw Business Gateway and its partners provide strategic support to thousands of growth businesses throughout Scotland.”
Quizzed about the gap in local funding that would happen with Brexit Bill Jamieson felt the Scottish Government would need to fill it.
Mr Jamieson felt the financial markets were very strong even though big companies were holding back on investment due to uncertainty. He felt there was no appetite in Scotland for a second independence referendum which would create further uncertainty even though this was being pushed by the Scottish Government. He suggested that there would be a customs border between Scotland and rUK if a special deal was struck for Scotland to be in the EEA .
With barely a mention of oil production and reserves in Scotland Mr Jamieson commented that the UK Government’s investment in renewables was ‘wobbly’ and that he didn’t think consumers would be prepared to pay more for their energy bills.
The Brexit Breakfast Blether is the first one of a series of events planned by Business Gateway Orkney having secured the investment for them through the EU and Scottish Government’s Business Improvement Growth (BIG) Fund.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame