What would a Scottish vote for independence mean for food?
The Yes Campaign places the value of the Scottish food and drink industry at about £13bn, and says the Scottish government has supported it in achieving strong growth in recent years.
“But there is opportunity for so much more with the powers of independence,” it said.
Meanwhile, a Euromonitor analysis of the impacts of Scottish independence on business across the whole of the UK warned: “The benefits of staying appear on the whole to be higher to the economies of both Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom, primarily because of the certainty it will provide.”
Business environment manager Carrie Lennard wrote: “Retail prices in Scotland could well go up if Scotland becomes independent. Retailers John Lewis, Next, B&Q and Asda have all warned that prices of consumer goods in Scotland rise if it splits from the UK.
“Scotland’s sparse population drives up delivery costs for the rest of the United Kingdom. If it breaks away, this could also cause delivery costs to rise in Scotland, and potentially become more competitive in the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Mohammed Ramzan, chairman of United Wholesale Grocers, one of Scotland’s biggest cash-and-carry operations, dismissed these claims.
He said: “I am hugely disappointed with the scaremongering on food prices in an independent Scotland – there is just no truth in these claims…Regardless of the outcome of the referendum I am planning to reduce prices in my shops over the next five years. Every single company fights for market share - they can't afford to raise prices because they have to compete to retain their market share and to grow.”
The Scottish government’s Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said that independence would allow Scotland to set its own priorities.
Lochhead said: “Independence will open new doors and access to new markets for our produce. It will break down trade barriers and allow Scotland to target our own priority markets and capitalise quickly on emerging opportunities and demand from countries for our produce.”
He added that control over tax revenue could allow Scotland to better support its farmers and fishermen, and allow the country to benefit from country of origin labelling.
“For an already successful industry with huge ambitions, independence is the key to fully exploiting those ambitions and reaching new heights,” he said.
Scotch on the rocks?
Analysts at Rabobank have claimed that a vote for independence could harm the Scottish whisky industry.
“In our opinion, possible short-term benefits of a ‘Yes’ vote are small, while the downside risks are significant,” wrote Elena Saputo from Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, in a recent report.
“While some note that Scottish independence has the potential to boost sales of Scotch, Rabobank believes that, on balance, the overall short-term impact on the industry will be negative.”
Whatever the outcome on Thursday, market uncertainty seems likely. Euromonitor pointed out the pound has already fallen against the dollar in the run-up to the referendum, and warned it “could do so further if the yes vote goes ahead”.
Lennard added: “Recent events in other EU countries such the change of government as Italy and France triggering a loss of consumer and business confidence in these markets demonstrate the importance of political certitude for investors.”
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