The referendum on Scottish independence could over shadow tax changes which are timetabled to be phased in over the coming three years, according to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC).
Speaking at the second Insolvency Today Scotland conference, Garry Clark, head of policy and public affairs at SCC, said the coming changes to taxation should allow the Scottish government more freedom to raise income but coverage of the changes may be overshadowed by wider issues.
He explained: “There are fears though, that these changes could be overtaken by the Constitution Referendum and the coverage that is being dedicated to that.
“Whatever the outcome, it seems likely there will be change for the powers of the government for Scotland. The referendum could act as an agent or catalyst for further change.”
However, Clark also said that Scottish companies are waking up the opportunities that are emerging from overseas distribution.
He said: “Our exporters need to explore more markets. Increasingly our traders are looking towards new overseas markets. A poll at a recent conference with Scottish exporters illustrated this intention.
“15 per cent of the delegates said that they intended to begin exporting to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). A further 10 per cent said they would also be looking at South East Asia.”
Clark said the SCC believed that the fall in consumer demand is likely to continue to affect Scottish retailers and noted that the travel industry was also likely to feel the pinch. However, there was some positive sentiment as he added that stay-cations were likely to be popular in 2012.
He concluded his presentation, predicting that 2012 is likely to be another year of very shallow growth with strong growth unlikely until 2013 at the very earlier.
He explained: “Cuts in the public sector will continue and Scotland will become more reliant on the private sector for employment. Unemployment may peak in Scotland later this year at around 9.3 per cent before employment picks up again in 2013.”
By Joe McGrath in Glasgow