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Referendum uncertainty 'harming Scotland's economy'

UNCERTAINTY over the referendum is blighting Scotland’s economy according to a controversial report.

London-based forecasters Capital Economics’ annual outlook yesterday suggested that lagging productivity rates in Scotland could reflect “concerns about the looming independence vote.”

Official figures earlier this week showed that Scotland’s GDP had risen by one per cent in the last fiscal quarter, but the report’s authors dismissed the news as “a bounce-back from a weak performance” in the months prior, with an annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent compared to three per cent across Britain as a whole.

Meanwhile unemployment in Scotland had risen once more to 6.9 per cent, compared with a British average of 6.6 per cent.

“It has become clear that uncertainty about Scotland’s future inside the UK is weighing on its economy,” the analysts concluded, adding that a No vote in September’s referendum could see a resurgence of “activity and investment that was postponed due to uncertainty about Scotland’s future.”

Better Together backer and Labour MP Ian Murray said the findings offered proof that SNP First Minister Alex Salmond had failed to answer “key economic questions about the consequences of separation.”

But the pro-independence lobby Business For Scotland’s Tony Banks said that next year’s general election result and a possible referendum on EU membership were a more likely cause for concern.

“I wonder what Capital Economics thinks was holding Scotland’s economy back before the referendum campaign started, because it’s doing better now than it was before 2007,” he said.

The report emerged as new polling suggested that undecided voters are on the wane as September’s referendum looms.

TNS Scotland’s two-week survey of 995 adults had just nine percentage points separating the Yes and No vote among those who said they were certain to vote.

But TNS’ Tom Costley said the most pertinent figure was a decline in undecided voters — from 22 per cent last month to 18 per cent. “If we strip out all those who are committed to or at least sympathetic to one side or another, there are now relatively few people who say they are certain to vote but are completely undecided,” he said.

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