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Calls for Scotland to have its own stock exchange

Calls have been made to create a Scottish stock exchange in a bid to encourage investment and improve regulation.

However, some claim the move would drag business practices north of the Border back to Victorian times.

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) yesterday claimed a stock exchange for Scotland could trigger far-reaching reforms in the financial sector, competing to attract investors and businesses looking for new ways of raising capital.

Crucially, it proposed the exchange would operate outwith statutory control.

The proposal comes quickly after Business Secretary Vince Cable suggested regional stockmarkets would help firms with a turnover of about £10 million to encourage local investors, or business angels, to support enterprise in their home region.

Philip Booth, of the IEA, said: "A Scottish stock market, free from Government controls, could pioneer a more effective way of regulation that was more responsive to investor needs.

"This innovation would sit well with Scotland’s existing financial sector expertise, and could also help fill the investment gap that seems to exist with new, smaller Scottish companies finding it difficult to raise capital."

The Scottish Government has backed the idea of a regional stock exchange, but there are concerns the model would be unable to attract enough investors to make it viable.

In Birmingham, for example, the InvestBX online stock exchange set up two years ago with £3m of public funding still only has three listed businesses.

Scotland had a number of stock exchanges in the 19th and 20th century as cities flourished due to emerging industries such as rail building and steel . Edinburgh and Dundee were trading centres for stocks and shares while Glasgow, one of the UK’s last 11 bourses, merged with the London Stock Exchange in 1973 after 129 years in business.

Critics of a revival in regional stock exchanges argue that in the age of global markets and real-time communications, the need is simply not there.

Alec Lyell, head of the Glasgow office of stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin, traded at Glasgow Stock Exchange in the 1970s and feels that the time has passed. He said: "It would be a march back in history. When I started there were stock exchanges in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh but the reason that there were these exchanges was the need to communicate.

"They serviced the need for people to come face-to-face and deal in companies and the institutions that surrounded them.

"We are in a global market and it would be a march back to the Victorian ways of doing business. There is no longer an exchange as such, it is simply a very large electronic system."

He also argued it was a misconception that the stock market was able to generate capital for smaller businesses.

"The great problem for small companies when they come on to the market is liquidity. Everyone is a buyer or a seller but the difficulty is getting a two-way market. If you fragment the market the first thing to happen is that you increase the problem of liquidity," he said.

A spokesman for the London Stock Exchange agreed that the big stock markets allowed a greater flow of liquidity to companies. Alistair Fairbrother said: "The important thing to consider is whether regional exchanges could create the critical mass of companies and investors to give it a viable position.

"One of the advantages that we talk about is that the companies on the London Stock Exchange do benefit from a whole community that has grown up around various sectors and companies of a particular size. That can obviously take a while to establish elsewhere."

However, as the financial crisis forces new thinking in the sector, there are still those willing to support the return of the regional stock exchange.

LibDem MSP for Glasgow Robert Brown said: "It could be a hub of good practice and innovative ideas, particularly given Scotland’s traditional reputation in financial services."

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland is also supporting the calls

  History of country’s financial growth


It was where the kingpins of the Second City of the Empire forged and consolidated their expanding wealth.

Glasgow Stock Exchange was founded in 1844, later operating in the grand headquarters on the corner of Buchanan Street and Nelson Mandela Place.

By the early 1830s a handful of businesses in Scotland were trading through the Union Bank and London Stock Exchange, founded in 1901, with water and gas firms, the Forth and Clyde and Monkland canal companies, five Edinburgh Banks and mineral railways listed. Glasgow stockbrokers recalled that "facilities were awanting for either acquiring or disposing of such stock" .

The first meeting place was 3 North Exchange Court, later St George’s Place. Sir James Watson, a former student of Glasgow University, lawyer and stockbroker, was the first chairman and held the job for 22 years. He was later a Lord Provost.

It started with 28 companies and by 1847 had to move to larger premises at the National Bank Buildings. In 1877, it moved to Buchanan Street.

There were then 119 companies listed and reports of its transactions filtered across the UK and beyond.

In 1908, union leader and lecturer John MacLean led a mass protest of the unemployed through the trading floor.

The creation of the Scottish Stock Exchange was formulated in 1963. In 1973, all stockmarkets merged with London.





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