WARNINGS over the impact of the independence referendum on foreign investment in Scotland appear to have been wide of the mark, with a record number of projects attracted from the US last year.


Figures published today by accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) also show that, in terms of the overall number of foreign direct investment projects attracted, Scotland had its third-best year on record.

The annual attractiveness survey reveals that Scotland attracted 80 foreign direct investment projects in 2014, down only slightly from 82 in 2013. EY highlights the fact that 2013 was Scotland's best year for inward investment project numbers since 1997.

In the run-up to what turned out to be a close vote in last September's independence referendum, there were warnings from politicians, including Chancellor George Osborne, and some in the business community about the potential impact of constitutional uncertainty on foreign investment in Scotland.

Asked if he believed the independence referendum had affected foreign investment in Scotland last year, EY partner Mark Harvey replied: "I think, on the face of it, you would look at it [the survey] and say the referendum didn't have any significant impact. What you can't tell is what would have happened if it hadn't happened."

Mr Harvey noted Scotland's share of foreign direct investment into the UK was similar in 2014 to 2013, at nine per cent last year compared with 10 per cent in the preceding 12 months.

He said : "Overall, the outcome for the year shows that Scotland has succeeded in sustaining its number of projects at the improved level seen since 2012, when investments into Scotland surged by almost 50 per cent."

EY's survey shows that Scotland attracted 37 investment projects from the US last year.

Among the US investors in Scotland highlighted in the EY report are Synnex Corp subsidiary Concentrix, which is creating about 500 jobs at Gourock in Inverclyde, and Portfolio Recovery Associates UK, which last year revealed plans for around 400 new posts at Kilmarnock. The survey also flags US financial giant BlackRock's creation of 200 jobs in Edinburgh, and American defence engineering company Lockheed Martin's expansion of its operation at Renfrew. Lockheed Martin unveiled plans to create 327 jobs through this expansion.

The EY report shows that Scotland secured more foreign direct investment projects in the field of scientific research in 2014 than in any other year in the past decade. Five such projects were won.

However, employment secured from foreign direct investment projects in Scotland announced in 2014, at 3,532 jobs in total, was down by 15 per cent on 2013.

This was the third consecutive year of decline in job creation from inward investment projects. And the number of jobs created from foreign direct investment in Scotland in 2014 was the lowest since 2009.

However, EY notes that Scotland is still the most successful UK location for job creation from inward investment outside London in the last decade. It highlights its finding that Scotland's job creation from such projects over the last 10 years, at more than 37,000 in total, is only "narrowly" behind London.

EY adds: "The shift in the type of investments, with the encouraging rise in scientific research projects - which are potentially high value but generate fewer jobs than other sectors - could be behind the mixed outlook on job trends relating to FDI [foreign direct investment]."

Mr Harvey highlighted his belief that Scotland could do more to attract investment from the Far East.

He noted that, while China was the fifth-largest source of foreign investment projects for the UK as a whole in 2014, it did not figure in the top 10 origins for Scotland.