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Scottish referendum aftermath: profession keeps a vigilant eye on devolution of powers

In the wake of the Scottish referendum, which resulted in Scotland staying in the UK but with further power transferred to Holyrood, the accountancy profession looks to play an important role in advising governments and businesses.

Following the 'No' vote in Scotland Independence referendum, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of the Scotland Devolution Commission to oversee the process of devolving additional powers over tax, spending and welfare to Scotland.

The commission will be chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, who served as president of Scotland only accounting professional body, ICAS, between 1996 and 1997.

ICAS chief executive Anton Colella welcomed Lord Smith appointment and said of the referendum: "This has been a remarkable political campaign which has energised the democratic process and changed the UK irrevocably. Now is the time for everyone in business and politics to come back together to build the economy, create wealth and deliver a fair and prosperous society."

To that effect, ICAS, which remained neutral throughout the campaign, said it will act on three fronts.

First it will offer its expertise and knowledge to both the Scottish and UK governments in "the process of shaping further devolution of taxation and other matters to Scotland".

Second, it will work with the Scottish government on business policy; and third, it will work with other business groups and the wider community "to bring people together again in the wake of the referendum result".

Unclear implications
At the ACCA, chief executive Helen Brand said the institute would support its members in Scotland and across the UK as the implications of the 'No' vote become clear.

"At this early stage there is little available detail on the implications of this 'No' vote," she said. "We know certain powers are already coming to Holyrood under the Scotland Act due to come into force in 2016."

Brand advised businesses to work ahead of these changes by drawing up contingency lists of possible issues including tax, corporate structure and regulation.

"Businesses will need to fully assess the opportunities and risks as the government makes its decisions and sets Scottish policy," she continued. "ACCA will be working with the government team to ensure that businesses, SMEs and individuals understand the implications of this 'No' vote."

CIPFA Scotland head Don Peebles, agreed that the nature of the changes resulting from the referendum results are still not fully known.

"As new powers over taxation and spending are given to Scotland it must be acknowledged that neither the Scottish nor UK government has a true picture of the financial situation of Scotland or a clear idea of what assets or liabilities it holds," he said.

Peebles argued that it was important for Scotland to modernise its current financial management system and build a concise picture of its true financial position "if it is to successfully manage its new powers within the United Kingdom".

"CIPFA will lead this process by bringing together key financial management experts to advise government on the necessary steps forward," He concluded.

The Sottish referendum took place on 18 September and voters were asked the following question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" With a record turnout of 84.6%, the 'No' won with 55.3% of the vote, while the 'Yes' received 44.7% of the votes.

Related stories:

CIPFA sets the record straight on Scotland's independence

Scotland's white paper fails to address pensions: ICAS

UK survey

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