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Firms freeze spending plans due to 2014 vote

A LEADING Scottish entrepreneur has said he knows of businesses which are delaying spending plans until after the September independence referendum but has emphasised he will not let uncertainty over the vote derail his own investment intentions.

DETERMINED: John Pirre, who owns Nevis Capital, said he was aware of other companies waiting for referendum result.
DETERMINED: John Pirre, who owns Nevis Capital, said he was aware of other companies waiting for referendum result.

John Pirrie built the LCH Generator business with brother James before selling to Speedy Hire for £62 million in 2006.

Since then the brothers have used their Nevis Capital vehicle to build up a portfolio of investments in businesses including generator companies Apex and Dieselec Thistle, boiler specialist James Ramsay and satellite maker Clydespace.

Mr Pirrie, who was in Glasgow on Friday as a judge at a business-themed fundraising event for the Scottish Spina Bifida Association, said the companies he is involved in were all progressing steadily.

He believes a run of more recent positive economic data is helping to generate more of a "feel good factor" although he remains cautious.

He said: "Certainly the climate is still challenging but we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

"We are still keen to invest both in new opportunities and possibly some bolt-ons for the existing businesses."

While Mr Pirrie would not disclose details of the pipeline of deals he is assessing, he confirmed they would be in the industrial and business services sectors and in areas where "people get their hands dirty".

Mr Pirrie indicated he is not being put off investing in Scotland but he is aware of other people and organisations waiting to see the result of the independence referendum.

He said: "I know within the business community the uncertainty is dreadful. People from overseas and England are basically saying 'why would we make any big investment in Scotland between now and September because we don't know what the future holds?'

"It is mostly in the property industry I have come across it.

"It is common sense to make that kind of decision as why would you make a major investment in Buchanan Street if you can do it down South when you don't know how Scotland and its economy is going to go in the next couple of years."

However, Mr Pirrie, who would prefer the UK to remain together, was adamant he would still back businesses in Scotland if the right deals came up.

He said: "We will take opportunities as they come and assess them as they come within the background of the whole possibility [of independence]. I am not saying for one minute that we would not invest in Scotland, far from it."

Responding to Mr Pirrie's comments, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Scotland's success at securing inward investment is clear and there is no sign of investors being deterred from coming to Scotland - if anything, the reverse appears to be true.

"Indeed recent figures report 'record numbers of FDI projects' in 2012/13, which demonstrates the continued attractiveness of Scotland as a place for investment and growth.

"These findings support the research in the latest Ernst and Young UK Attractiveness Survey, which showed that foreign direct investment projects coming to Scotland in 2012 were at their highest level for 15 years. And we welcome the new comments from global property specialists Savills that investment in the sector from at home and abroad is at very healthy levels."

Mr Pirrie was a judge at the Dragon's Dare competition with Bloom VC's Michelle Rodger. Earlier this year, Duncan Bannatyne gave business groups £500 of his own money and asked them to develop it into a minimum of £5000 in six months with the aim of raising £20,000 for the Scottish Spina Bifida Association.

Kilmarnock-based Cook School Scotland produced a new recipe book while swimming programme Turtle Tots donated profits from its expansion from Fife into Aberdeen.

Glasgow-based fashion and design hub MimosaLife held events while six entrepreneurs from Aberdeen, operating under the Dragonsdare.co.uk banner, held themed dining evenings in the north-east.

Mr Pirrie said as an investor he looked at the management, product, ideas and profitability of a business.

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