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Construction schemes delayed ahead of Scottish referendum

The value of construction projects given the go ahead in four sectors in Scotland has fallen by over £300m in the run up to next week’s independence referendum, data service Glenigan has found.

The value of approvals in the private sector dominated industrial, office and retail sectors fell 43 per cent, 24 per cent and 59 per cent in the first seven months of the year compared with a year ago. In total the value of approvals in those sectors dropped £234m.

The utilities sector saw a 26 per cent drop in approvals which is a decline of £100m.

There had been strong growth in the value of industrial, retail and utilities projects being approved in 2013.

But private housing continued to grow as planning approvals grew by 59 per cent during that time – a large increase on 2013.

It was a mixed story in the types of construction  that have significant amounts of public sector projects: social housing and education approvals rose strongly while health and infrastructure approvals fell.

Overall the value of all projects seeking planning in Scotland was static in the first seven months of 2014 whereas it had grown in 2013 and 2012.

Glenigan attributed the relative drop in projects being put forward for planning to investors deferring decisions on projects until they know the outcome of the independence vote.

Allan Wilén, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The decline in private non-residential planning approvals and project starts are not a direct vote of confidence for or against an independent Scotland.

“Rather, the drop in activity, which follows a relative positive performance in 2013, appears to reflect investors’ temporarily deferring decisions due to political and economic uncertainty ahead of next week’s vote.

“The danger is that these uncertainties persist following the referendum. Commenters have raised concerns that firms headquartered outside of Scotland may reassess their investment plans in the event of a yes vote next week. However, construction product manufactures supplying the UK market from Scotland face similar pressures.

“In the event of a yes vote it will be important that the key economic issues, from the currency to the operation of energy markets, are quickly resolved in order to provide the private sector with the confidence to press ahead with planned investments.”

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