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Busy months ahead after Scottish vote

Despite the fact that the outcome of the referendum is a no to independence, the coming months will not quite be ‘business as usual’.

With an upcoming UK general election and its implications for a possible UK referendum on EU membership to follow there is likely to be some political uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

However, following a notable reduction in the value of transactions recorded between April and June, it is likely that we will see a pick-up in activity as investors’ confidence is restored. The deals that might have been put on hold until the uncertainty surrounding independence was restored will now be able to go ahead.

“There is likely to be a smooth succession for Nicola Sturgeon as successor to Alex Salmond as leader of the SNP”

Although we are likely to see an uplift in transactions, the Scottish government will still need to reassure investors that political stability is top of their agenda if this is to be sustained into the long-term. 

There is likely to be a smooth succession for Nicola Sturgeon as successor to Alex Salmond as leader of the SNP but it is unclear at the time of writing as to who may step up to be the new deputy first minister and this may have further consequences for the structure and leadership of other parts of the Scottish Government.

At UK level the prime minister has appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to consider further devolution of tax, spending and welfare powers to the Scottish parliament and a firm timetable is already in place to deliver these proposals when they come. 

With Holyrood set to take on further responsibilities, both larger and smaller market players will need to know that the transition to enhanced powers will be as smooth as possible.

“The referendum therefore came at a particularly eventful time on the policy front”

Much property related policy is of course already devolved to the Scottish parliament. Issues that the Scottish Property Federation has been working on over the past few months will continue to demand attention, and we are expecting an announcement on land and building transaction tax rates and thresholds, including the recent consultation on a development focussed tax relief soon.

We are also expecting an announcement on residential tenancy reforms and a further insight into the timetable for energy efficiency reforms in the commercial property sector, due to take effect next October.

The referendum therefore came at a particularly eventful time on the policy front, so despite the no vote, the following months will be busy ones. The SPF will continue to engage with members of the Scottish parliament to ensure that the landscape for the business and investment community remains as attractive as possible, in order for Scotland’s property and construction industries to thrive.

David Melhuish is the director of the Scottish Property Federation

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