City & Business: Scots on the move

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The Independent Online
After the euphoria over Scotland's "yes, yes" vote, cooler heads might start counting the cost to Scottish business of the endorsement for a separate tax-varying authority.

During the campaign very little was heard from the Scottish business community. The reason: to object to devolution would have been to defy popular opinion and invite criticism of certain companies - perhaps even a boycott of products. So business leaders kept their heads down.

But some hard thinking will now need to be done about how changes in the tax regime will affect the Scottish economy. This is particularly true for the financial services community, the second-largest industry in Scotland after tourism. Standard Life is the largest employer in Edinburgh, and Charlotte Square is still home to a large number of fund management groups.

A Scottish parliament would be mad to alter the rate of personal income tax: to lower it below the English rate would be fiscal suicide, while to raise it would be electoral suicide. Which is not to say that one or other won't be tried, along with a changing cocktail of property taxes, sales taxes and the like to prop up the devolved government's edifice.

The point is not just that Scottish business is likely to pay more to be in business. It is the uncertainty about where and how hard these taxes will fall. To an Edinburgh- based fund management organisation already wondering whether it might be better off in London or even another European financial centre, devolution may be the excuse needed to dust down that relocation plan.