PLATFORM

The countdown continues to the EU Referendum this month, with local, national and international press paying close attention, and volumes being written and tweeted on a multitude of predictions in the event of a `leave' or `remain' vote.

Indications are that the vote on 23 June will be close, with businesses, principals, funders and investors left to negotiate the uncertainty that has arisen as a result. Indeed, it is possible that Scottish and Northern Irish votes will keep the UK in the EU against the wishes of England and Wales.

Where concerns have arisen, we have been working with our clients to address them, advising and supporting as they navigate an uncertain present and look towards the potential implications in the event of a vote to leave the EU.

However, analysis by Knight Frank suggests that the appetite of private international buyers for Scottish assets is and will remain strong, with numbers suggesting that more than 574 million of large Scottish commercial property assets were acquired by international investors in the 13 months up until the end of January 2016.

This chimes with the experiences of our clients across a number of sectors, whereby funders, including alternative funders backed by international investors, remain active and seemingly reluctant to restrict themselves by geography. Instead, their net is being cast more widely to further the search for quality assets. Closer to home, appetite and activity levels remain high amongst both national and domestic funders.

In all of these, the possibility of a `Brexit' appears to be only one of a number of factors affecting decisions.

Finally, we are seeing evidence that not all of our clients are concerned, with those whose business is predicated on a mid to longer-term model or with a strong basis in Scotland or the wider UK rightly focused on life beyond June. Within the technology sector in particular, M&A activity remains high, with property and equity investment markets also bustling.

HADRIAN'S WALL

The Scottish election is over, and has brought change to Holyrood: the SNP ended up as the largest party but missed an overall majority, while the Conservatives usurped Labour as the second largest party.

The recent enactment of the devolved tax powers provisions in the Scotland Act 2012 added a new facet to this year's campaigns, with each party eager to set out its views on income tax in particular. The two largest parties campaigned on positions of maintaining and/or freezing rates, while the party promising increases (Labour) fared worse than expected. The expectation at this time then is that taxes will remain steady over the short to medium-term.

A consensus favouring assisting Scottish business was evident; with the SNP promising to expand the small business bonus; the Conservatives looking to freeze business rates; and Labour claiming the most pro-business manifesto in Scottish Labour's history.

This encouraging proactive stance for business has carried through to the creation of an economy cabinet secretary (Keith Brown) to work alongside the new finance and constitution cabinet secretary (Derek Mackay) in government. The finance secretary will now dedicate more time to the new tax and borrowing powers coming to Holyrood, whilst the economy secretary will engage intensively with businesses to make sure that growth and productivity in Scotland is stimulated and enhanced.