There are post-Brexit opportunities for Scotland, MSPs hear

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 July 2016 in News

Business and industry leaders tell MSPs good deals for Scotland may be possible in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union

Holyrood windows - Holyrood

Business and industry leaders have told MSPs Scotland must be decisive in the wake of the EU referendum result to create stability and seize opportunities.

MSPs on the European and External Affairs Committee held a special session during recess to discuss the UK's Brexit vote, and heard from around a dozen witnesses.

Representatives from farming, finance, food and drink and universities told the committee of the uncertainty in their sectors, but said there were opportunities to win new trade deals and other arrangements which could be beneficial to Scotland.


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Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation called Brexit a "once in a lifetime opportunity" for the fishing industry if Scotland can be placed in a leadership role over North Sea negotiations.

"We would not become the bully of the north east continental shelf, we couldn't do that, we would have to negotiate, not from a clean sheet, but from where we are," he said.

James Withers from Scotland Food and Drink said uncertainty looked likely to continue, but there may be an opportunity to promote Scotland's regional products outside the EU.

Both he and National Farmers' Union representative Claire Slipper urged governments to replace EU CAP payments with a system which better rewarded famers' hard work.

Hugh Chater from Virgin Money said Scotland's financial sector, which employs 100,000 people would benefit from Scotland negotiating its own post-Brexit deal, particularly around the banking passporting system in the European Economic Area.

However, some witnesses issued some grave warnings. The director of Universities Scotland, Alistair Sim said the higher education sector "ecosystem" faced substantial challenges, especially if Scottish research was locked out of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 funding stream.

There were warnings about the impact of the loss of free movement of workers too.

"It's incumbent on government to put out the message that Scotland is open for business," said Graeme Roy of the Fraser of Allander Institute.

But Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary of the STUC warned bureaucracy would increase, not decrease, outside of an EU which likely to be a tough negotiator.

"The EU is likely to play hard ball here. But I think anybody who has looked at the issue closely knew that was going to be the case," he said.

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