Indyref2 could spark slowdown

Fresh independence vote could have greater impact on market than Brexit, say property firms. Jack Walsh reports

A SECOND Scottish independence referendum has the potential to create a greater level of uncertainty within the commercial property market than Brexit, property firms have warned.

• A second Scottish independence referendum is on the cards.

Speaking to SLTN, Peter Seymour, head of licensed trade and leisure at Graham & Sibbald, said that “any uncertainty has to have an impact on market conditions”.

“However, if one compares the lack of activity leading up to the [independence] vote in September 2014 against the activity leading up [to] the vote in June 2016, then I would have to say that the market is significantly less concerned about leaving Europe than leaving the UK,” said Seymour. He attributed this to the fact that Scotland’s licensed trade and hospitality sector is “significantly dependent on tourists from south of the border”, which makes any potential barriers between Scotland and the rest of the UK “off-putting to buyers looking to acquire leisure businesses in Scotland”.

Taking a similar stance, Alan Goldie, director of The Restaurant Agency, said the impact of an independence referendum was already felt in 2014 “when licensed property deals in some instances were held back or fell off prior to the in/out decision”.

Echoing this view, Stuart Drysdale of Christie & Co recalled that in 2014 “investors became nervous about the vote which of course led to nervousness about completing deals”.

“The Brexit discussions could potentially take years and years to iron out whereas the SNP are looking to call Indyref2 relatively quickly, so we think operators will be focusing on that rather than Brexit in the short term,” said Drysdale.
However, not all firms shared the same view.

Paul Hart of ASG Commercial reckons “if the 2014 referendum can be used as a guide we do not anticipate any ‘knee-jerk’ reactions by the market”.

“The impact of a ‘Yes’ vote will obviously [be] fairly significant but again at this time it is too early to second guess the consequences of matters,” said Hart.