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Trust signals wait-and-see approach to independence issue

SCOTTISH Investment Trust has declared its board would have at least 18 months to assess the situation and "react accordingly" in the event of a vote for independence, while noting opinion polls signalled such an outcome was unlikely.

This wait-and-see approach is set out by SIT chairman Douglas McDougall in his statement on the Edinburgh-based international investment trust's interim results, which were published yesterday.

These show SIT recorded a total return on net asset value per share of minus-2.8 per cent for the six months to April 30. It under-performed the FTSE-All World and UK FTSE All-Share indices, which achieved respective total returns of 0.4 per cent and 2.7 per cent. SIT, which had total assets of £824 million at April 30, declared an unchanged interim dividend of 4.8p-a-share.

Addressing the constitutional issue, Mr McDougall says: "Shareholders will be aware that there is to be a referendum on Scottish independence to be held in September. The Scottish Government has indicated that March 2016 would be the intended date for implementation of independence should the vote be 'yes'.

"In the event of such a vote, which opinion polls have consistently suggested is unlikely, the board should therefore have at least 18 months to see how the structure evolves and to react accordingly. The board is determined to take whatever action is necessary to protect the interests of all our shareholders and has been reviewing options."

Mr McDougall declares the under-performance of SIT's equity portfolio occurred during a six-week period of "turbulent change" in stock market leadership at the end of its first half.

Detailing events during this period, he says: "Global stockmarkets eked out further modest gains against a backdrop of uncertainty, exacerbated by political tension in Ukraine, continued weak news flow from China and an expectation that US interest rates could rise in 2015. Increased risk aversion prompted a major rotation of stockmarket leadership as biotechnology, consumer and internet stocks sold off sharply to the benefit of emerging markets and other segments which had lagged previously.

"Corporate activity increased sharply in a number of industries towards the end of the period, with the healthcare industry featuring prominently."

Mr McDougall believes the global economic backdrop has not changed much in the last year.

He says: "Last year's interim results statement commented that the long-standing imbalances in the world economy remained unresolved. One year on, the overall situation is not materially different, other than global stockmarkets are markedly higher in local terms and standing on even less attractive valuations."

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