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What Scotland can learn from Canada, plus why the London 2012 gag order must go

Christine Murray on Scottish independence, and the Olympics

My homeland of Canada is a laughable 144 years young, but if there’s one thing its political history has to offer, it’s a precedent study for Holyrood on referendums and separatism. The French province of Quebec has flirted with extricating itself from Canada since the 1970s, and has held two referendums, in 1980 and 1995, to devastating economic effect.

In 1995, the result of the vote to separate was split by a razor-thin 49.42 per cent ‘Yes’ to 50.58 per cent ‘No’, with a remarkable voter turnout rate of 94 per cent. But less important than Quebec’s decision to stay was the insecurity caused in anticipation of each result.

Montreal was once the largest city in Canada, and its economic engine. However in the lead-up to the 1980 referendum, businesses fled (much to Toronto’s benefit), with even historical local stalwarts such as the Bank of Montreal tiptoeing out, as many felt it was nonsensical to run a Canada-wide business from what might be another country. More importantly for architects, the exodus of jobs and political insecurities caused the property market to crash, and Montreal has never really recovered, despite continuing to be, arguably, Canada’s most culturally vibrant city.

It’s unlikely to be as drastic in Scotland. Nevertheless, setting the vote for October 2014 was a mistake; referendums should be done as quickly as possible, to give property markets and business analysts little time to react. Now that the date is set, politicians must flesh out what separation would entail with great clarity (ie pound or euro) – businesses and property investors will want to know what a ‘yes’ vote will mean, before they consider making a significant investment in Scotland pre-2014.

Lift the gag order, LOCOG

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) must revisit its No Marketing Rights Protocol. The majority of the clauses are certifiably absurd and unenforceable anyway. How does LOCOG intend to police the ‘verbal responses’ rule, for example, which stipulates that suppliers may talk about their work, but not if they are speaking to ‘a significant number of clients or potential clients’ – will LOCOG be crowd-controlling visitors to MIPIM’s London stand?

Surely now that major sponsors are in place, LOCOG can afford to enact its reserved right to amend the protocol ‘at the London 2012 Organising Committee’s absolute discretion’, and allow architects to market their expertise to the benefit of the whole construction industry.

The protocol was penned in the vastly different economic era of 2007, but in the current economy, the PR value of the vast number of London 2012 projects delivered on time and on budget would bring a welcome boost to the international profile of UK construction – an economic driver of the entire country. At this late stage, a change in the protocol is unlikely to cost LOCOG a penny: lift the gag order, and suppliers will do the rest.

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