Scottish Independence Vote Hinders North-Sea Oil Business Plans

Scotland’s independence referendum next year is hindering the plans of North Sea oil companies by clouding the outlook for taxes, fiscal policy, regulation and bank finance, according to a survey of industry executives.

“More and more of our clients in oil and gas and other sectors are raising questions about the implications,” said Kenny Paton, oil and gas partner at Bond Dickinson LLP, sponsor of the survey. “This report provides more evidence that oil and gas businesses are concerned about the lack of information.”

Industry officials were mostly troubled over personal and corporate taxes, followed by issues such as European Union membership, according to the survey by the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, business lobby of the U.K.’s main oil hub.

North Sea income is critical for the nationalists’ argument that Scotland would be better off going it alone as they seek to overturn a deficit of almost 20 percentage points in support for independence in recent polls. U.K. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, a former oil economist, contends the industry is on the cusp of an upturn that will strengthen Scotland’s finances.

Investment in the U.K. Continental Shelf is estimated to reach a record 13.5 billion pounds ($22 billion) this year, according to Oil & Gas U.K., an industry group. While momentum is seen continuing in 2014, the referendum is adding uncertainty to companies’ plans for following years, today’s survey shows.

“Executives in the high-growth oil and gas sector feel they have a lack of clarity,” the chamber said in a statement on its website. “They say this lack of information is hampering their ability to establish business plans beyond 2014.”

The vote on whether to quit the U.K. is due in September.

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