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Brexit vote reignites Scottish referendum debate

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Scottish architecture faces further referendum uncertainty in the wake of the UK’s vote to Brexit, according to leading figures in the sector north of the border

Sixty-two per cent of voters in Scotland backed the Remain camp, against 38 per cent voting to leave, contrasting with an overall UK vote to leave the European Union.

And less than two years after the country voted to remain part of the UK, calls for another referendum on Scottish independence are gathering pace, with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon today making it clear that the Scottish people see their future in the EU.

Alan Dickson, an architect at Isle of Skye-based Rural Design, said: ‘It is highly likely that we will have another independence referendum.

‘This result will definitely change some people’s minds who voted for Scotland to remain in the UK in [the 2014] independence vote.

He added: ‘I will have to think long and hard about how I would vote in a fresh independence referendum in Scotland. My view last time that was that we were better off in, but when you look at the map of how the UK voted, I now see major cultural differences with the rest of the UK.’

Lee Ivett of Glasgow-based architectural outfit Baxendale told the AJ that Brexit campaigners’ arguments that more money will be available for public projects following Brexit will cut little ice in Scotland.

He said: ‘That might sound good in England, but in Scotland there is a perception that we have not been getting a fair deal from Westminster.

‘The idea that leaving the EU is going to bring more money into Scotland is questionable.

‘The EU is seen as a counterbalance to the power of Westminster government, and in the event of any future independence vote in Scotland, it will be seen as an immediate source of support and some form of collaborative and collective identity.’

Peter Wilson, former director of the Wood Studio at Edinburgh Napier University, also warned that Scotland could suffer from reduced funding from Europe.

A huge amount of Scottish university income comes from the EU

He said: ‘A huge amount of Scottish university income comes from the EU and they are likely to suffer badly.

‘In addition, lots of areas with poor economies benefited from regional development programmes. Seeing that cut off could have a lot of impact on development schemes.’

Meanwhile Dickson said that there was a danger that private finance for development in Scotland could also be affected.

He said: ‘I hope this doesn’t happen but, if Brexit is handled badly and causes continuing uncertainty, that is going to limit investment and make firms put off decisions.

‘I imagine, depending on what the banks do, that commercial finance could be unfavourable. It doesn’t necessarily affect my practice but could do in a more urban context.’

Ivett added that the result of the referendum was ‘quite a kick in the face’ for a Scottish architecture sector, which he said had been trying to develop more of an international presence.

He said: ‘There might be an perception that becoming more protectionist and decreasing access to Scottish and UK work to outsiders might increase opportunity for domestic practices.

‘However it is quite a backward step to seek solace by looking inwards.’

Ivett said: ‘Even as a small practitioner I have had opportunities to do all sorts of collaborative projects across Europe, but this vote creates uncertainty about those types of opportunities.’

Dickson said that the vote could make it more difficult for Scottish architects to recruit staff from the EU.

‘We have three European architects from the EU, out of 11. They are now wondering whether they are welcome in this country and if their job is safe.

‘It is a big problem for us. We have tried to recruit from the UK and find it quite difficult to get people to come up here. We are in a remote area.’


Malcolm Fraser of Halliday Fraser Munro

Having fielded questions for years about ’business and investment uncertainty caused by the threat of Scottish independence’ here is chaos unleashed. I’m no fan of the EU - I think it’s a racket, run on behalf of the elite. But I think a withdrawn Britain will be that and more, and I don’t believe that full ’independence’ is possible or desirable.

I still rage at the rigid, neoliberal deathstar the EU has made of itself

Interdependence should be the goal, balancing the need for a nation’s independent action and responsibility with wider, collective, appropriate agreements on trade, climate change, justice etc. As a Scot, we might just limp out the end of the chaos with some of that; but I still rage at the rigid, neoliberal deathstar that the EU has made of itself. And I feel heartbroken for the caring, social democratic Britain that little England continues to turn away from.


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