Matthew Lynn and I both wrote in last week’s magazine (see: An independent Scotland could make a play for the City – and win; and Smart investors move north and buy Japan) that we weren’t as depressed about the prospect of Scottish independence as everyone else.
Why? Because it wouldn’t, for example, take much more than a few tax tweaks to encourage more of the financial industry to shift to Edinburgh. The houses are lovely, the city is very accessible, and the lifestyle vastly superior to those on offer in London or Geneva (assuming you don’t mind the wind).
If the SNP were to hold a referendum on independence; win (unlikely I know); and then to get it right, Scotland could have a chance of ending up not a miserably over-indebted nation populated entirely by the unemployed, but a dynamic global financial centre.
We’ve started something with these thoughts. Today the Guardian has picked up the baton, asking if Scotland can pay its way, and getting four PR experts to think of a rebranding strategy for the new nation. One suggests selling the place and its 700 plus islands as Europe’s very own Caribbean. Another. a completely fantastic new slogan: “Scotland, is there nothing she cannae do?” (Don’t answer that).
So what if it all works? When the hedge fund managers come, what will be the thing to own if you aren’t a hedge fund manager but want to get rich too? I suspect it will be something that is both genuinely scarce and comes with a sense of status.
So if it ever looks like there will be a referendum and that the result might be a vote for independence (I accept this isn’t that likely) you’ll find me out looking at grouse moors. According to Matthew Sinclair of Saint Property, “Scotland has some of the best and most exciting game shooting/sporting anywhere and the ultimate is seen in grouse shooting in Scotland”.
They don’t come on the market very often (they are in genuinely short supply) and when they do they aren’t cheap to buy or to maintain: have a bad breeding year and “that can make a serious dent”.
But that of course is part of their attraction. You can’t have one unless you are properly rich. You need to have enough money to feel good about the fact that the moors bring value to the wider community – local full-time and seasonal employment for example – and not to feel bad about getting a lousy return on your investment.
That’s exactly the kind of status symbol successful hedge fund managers like. And one more reason for them all to move north (with their yachts for the Caribbean-style sailing) just as soon as the referendum is won.