No vote does not mean business as usual for SMEs

Small and medium-sized businesses located south of the border could be faced with dual payrolls and two different tax systems under plans outlined for increased devolution in the run up to the independence referendum.

According to EY UK & Ireland chairman and managing partner Steve Varley, while the referendum will likely result in an increase of national feeling and be beneficial for Scottish businesses, those in England with links to the north may have worries on the horizon.

‘For those based south of the border, with substantial operations in Scotland, and perhaps more importantly employees and customers in Scotland, there are a number of things to think carefully about when it comes to further devolved powers,’ Varley adds.

‘The enhanced commitments to further devolved powers that were promised in the last week or so have been a game changer. The ‘No’ vote does not mean business as usual for SMEs. For example, employers now face running dual payrolls, under two different tax systems.’

The vote, which saw 55 per cent of the voting public choose to not end the 307-year old union with England and Wales, had been closely fought in the two weeks previous. In an effort to convert undecided voters to a ‘No’ vote, David Cameron’s coalition had pledged to further extend a Scottish devolution that had begun with the creation of a parliament in 1997.

In the aftermath of the referendum, Cameron has come out and promised devolution across Great Britain, including votes on English issues by English MPs. More will be said in the immediate future regarding devolution to cities and regions of the UK.

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For EY’s Varley, he believes that with many SMEs consciously deciding to focus business growth in the UK and avoid the additional cost and ‘burden’ of operating across multiple tax systems and regulatory systems, ‘significant change’ could be afoot.

‘To make sure that they are well positioned to navigate this change, businesses will need to be flexible, able to move quickly, and keep their eyes on the ball in terms of the negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments over the next 18 months,’ he says.

‘Entrepreneurs and SMEs are known for their quick thinking, their ability to spot market opportunity and to thrive and adapt – that is what we need to see over the next 18 months form this sector to make the new business landscape in Scotland a success.’

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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