Businesses 'wait and see’ on Scottish vote

Some indifferent, others curious about Nova Scotia business impact

The Daily Business Buzz thebuzz@tc.tc
Published on September 18, 2014
Yes campaign and No campaign posters stand outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18.
The Associated Press

HALIFAX —  Many Nova Scotia firms doing business in the United Kingdom appear to have little or no concern about today's vote on Scottish independence, mainly because they appear to have little direct trade with Scotland.

Interhabs Ltd. of Hubbards, which was one of the largest Maritime companies selling pre-engineered homes in Scotland for more than 25 years, saw its business there literally wiped out after the worldwide financial crisis in 2008. Robert Williams, a former vice-president now retired, says the market dried up two years after the Nova Scotia government provided the company with a $300,000 loan guarantee to help support their growth in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Cape Cod Finished Wood Siding, a division of Marwood Ltd. of Hammonds Plains, has a large market in the UK but no direct links to Scotland. A company official says there has been no discussion about the possible impact of a “yes” vote with their partners in England.

Pernille Fischer Boulter, president and CEO of Kisserup International Trade Roots, says exporters are selling far less to the European Union than to the United States but that they could turn that around.

“Companies could utilize the natural advantage of being ‘New Scotland’ when selling to Scotland — the branding could be a huge advantage,” says the president and CEO of the Halifax firm, which assists private sector companies, industry and trade associations, and government organizations with export development.

However, if Scotland votes for independence, this could pose challenges to future export potential.

“CETA [Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] will increase its focus when ratified but if Scotland separates it will be a whole new set of regulations, maybe even tariffs for Scotland,” says Fischer Boulter. “On the flip side it would be years for Scotland to develop and implement these.”

The Nova Scotia government says the province is interested in a continuing business relationship with Scotland no matter the outcome of the vote on Thursday.

“Scotland is a significant trade partner for Nova Scotia, including in the energy, fisheries and ocean tech sectors,” says Frazer Egerton, director of trade policy in the Department of Economic, Rural Development and Tourism. “We look forward to continuing and growing our trade relationship, whatever the decision of the Scottish people.”

In June, Premier Stephen McNeil led a trade mission to Europe which included Scotland, seeking ways to enhance air travel and tourism. Energy Minister Andrew Younger met with Scotland’s Minister of Energy Fergus Ewing.

The premier also met with companies interested in developing Nova Scotia’s offshore potential.

Music Nova Scotia is hoping to make inroads in Scotland no matter how Scots vote.

Award-winning Cape Breton band The Town Heroes played Glasgow in July as part of the Canadian Independent Music Association’s Canada Invades Glasgow B2B showcase and trade mission.

Scott Long, Music Nova Scotia’s executive director, said the mission to Glasgow was an important market research effort.

“As a province we have been targeting the UK as a strategic music market for some time, but with particular emphasis on London. Glasgow is increasingly becoming a major epicentre for the discovery of new music. Connecting with buyers in Glasgow is the next logical step to a successful export strategy in the U.K.”