British business and industry leaders were breathing easier by breakfast time on Friday, following news that the Scottish people had voted to remain in the U.K., rather than unravel a union three centuries old.
After the result of the much-anticipated referendum was revealed — 55 percent of voters opted for the status quo — the pound hit a two-year high against the euro, and a two-week one against the dollar.
The Scottish “No” to independence pushed the pound up to 1.27 euros, and to $1.65 in Asian trading after the news broke at 6:08 am London time. At the close of trading in London on Friday, sterling was holding firm at 1.27 euros, but fell back to $1.63.
The FTSE 100 was on the uptick in mid-morning, climbing 0.7 percent to 6,867.98. As Friday wore on, it lost some ground, closing up 0.3 percent to 6,837.92.
The London-based Scottish designer Holly Fulton was one of many business people happy with the referendum’s outcome.
“I completed my fashion education between Scotland and London and my business was started with a huge amount of help from the British Fashion Council,” Fulton told WWD. “I’ve had a lot of backing from U.K. initiatives and believe, from an industry perspective, that it is beneficial for graduates, new designers and the industry as a whole that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.
“I would not have been able to start my line without the support from London, and feel we are stronger together than apart. United, we can all make more of a mark on the international arena.”
George Wallace, chief executive of the European consultancy MHE Retail, said he thinks, “Virtually all businesses will be breathing a sigh of relief.
“Everyone was very afraid that if there was a ‘Yes’ vote, there would have been great economic uncertainty. There was also the question over currency, and the possibility of interest rates going up. And the changes in regulations (following independence) would have inevitably increased costs for businesses, and they would have been reluctant to invest.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, group ceo of Kingfisher Plc, the home improvement retailer, said his company was committed to trading in Scotland, regardless of the referendum outcome. That said, he welcomed Friday’s result. “It gives us the confidence to continue growing our businesses in Scotland, and we will continue with our current investment plans.”
John Cridland, director-general of the lobbying organization CBI, which stands for Confederation of British Industry, called Friday “a momentous day for our United Kingdom,” and said the referendum result “will be greeted by a collective sigh of relief” across the business community.
“Business has always believed that the Union is best for creating jobs, raising growth, and improving living standards, and welcomes that the people of Scotland want to play an integral role in this internationally successful partnership.”
He said it’s now time to rebuild relationships outside the U.K. “to reassure international investors and other partners that we will emerge stronger and more confident in the months and years ahead.”
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “The people of Scotland have spoken. Their historic decision to remain part of the United Kingdom will be a relief to many business people and a disappointment to others, but it was a decision for the Scottish people alone to make.”
He said the U.K. now has “the opportunity to define a future direction that stimulates growth and prosperity as never before — and for us together to make our way in the world, firmly on our own two feet.”
The director of the pro-independence Scottish Retail Consortium, David Lonsdale, put a positive spin on the result. He said the vote would signal a new chapter for Scotland, which can now negotiate with the British government for greater powers in an already planned process of devolution.
“This vote signals the start of a fresh chapter of devolution, with greater power and more economic responsibility for Holyrood (the Scottish parliament) and the Scottish government.
“The retail industry is the country’s largest private sector employer…and the SRC and our members look forward to engaging constructively and positively to ensure that the further powers to be devolved are implemented in a sensible and cost effective manner.”