Merryn's Blog

Where is Edinburgh’s Malmö?

If Scotland were to vote for independence, would Edinburgh’s workers commute from England in the same way that Danes commute to Copenhagen from Malmö, in Sweden? And if so, where might that be?

I wrote here a few weeks ago that there might be a tiny consolation prize for the well off from Scottish independence. The huge influx of lobbyists and pointless politicians into the new nation's capital would mean that Edinburgh house prices would soar. So anyone with a nice Georgian townhouse in the centre of the city would at least be quids in on their house, if not on their tax bill.

However, several of you wrote in to say that you wouldn't be so sure. Much of the financial industry would be likely to up sticks and head south post-referendum in order to avoid falling foul of the endless regulatory problems that might come with cross border sales (you can't sell life assurance cross border, for example).

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So there would be at least as many smart houses for sale as there might be in demand particularly if the SNP stayed in government and followed through on its land tax threats.

These are all good points, and it is true that the financial companies in Scotland are not short of exit plans. Shame.

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On the plus side, that does mean that those of you who insist on betting on property prices going up in one place or another might take a look at some of the places on the southern side of the border places where those who might negotiate working in Scotland for only a few days a week, and who want to keep their affairs English, might fancy living.

The average numbers for house prices in the UK don't tell us much in the way of regional truths, but in many parts of the north there has been a genuine property crash readers have written in to tell me of prices down 40% plus in much of Northumberland, for example.

The Independent on Sunday picked up this idea at the weekend with Clive Aslet suggesting that Scots might head for these areas in much the same way that the French have reacted to high taxes there with an "exodus into the promised land of Belgium."

I like to see it a bit more like Denmark and Sweden high land taxes in Denmark mean that a good many of the people who work in Copenhagen actually live in Malm.

So where is Edinburgh's Malm? It could be Berwick, which is a mere 45 minutes from Edinburgh by train and which, from the window of said train at least, looks quite nice. There you can get a nice detached Georgian townhouse with four bedrooms for a mere £300,000. You don't get that in Edinburgh.

If you have more to spend, £800,000 will get you this rather splendid mansion.

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And if you have rather less, you can have this delightful little cottage for under £200,000. I'm not convinced that doing this will make your fortune (don't forget that interest rates can rise as well as fall ) but if you are Scottish and scared, it wouldn't be a bad way to hedge your bets for 2014.

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