ONE of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen insists he will withhold investment in the country until uncertainty caused by a second independence referendum has cleared.

Alasdair Locke, chairman of Motor Fuel Group - Britain’s second largest independent petrol station - said his position would be “the same as almost any rational businessman’s” adding that even the prospect of a further vote is “hugely damaging to Scotland”.

His bullish stance comes as one of Scotland’s leading economic forecasters, Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute, warned in a new report that while the nation’s economy is predicted to continue its recovery this year, uncertainty caused by Brexit and a second Scottish independence referendum is expected to stymie growth.

HeraldScotland: A North Sea oil platform is subject to a two-mile exclusion zone

And the report added it was “undoubtedly the case that the recent performance of North Sea oil and gas poses a challenge to any transition to independence.”

It added: “For example, the sharp fall in oil prices has all but eliminated North Sea tax revenues.”

The Scottish Government wants a referendum on independence to take place between autumn 2018 and the spring of the following year in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Mr Locke, a serial investor who earned £117 million after selling his Aberdeen-based oil and gas services company Abbot for over £900 million a decade ago, claimed that persistent constitutional questions was “putting off a lot of investment”.


The oil industry veteran said: “Would I do mainstream investment in normal stuff in Scotland at the moment? No. Almost certainly not. Because I need to be certain we are not going to go through another hugely divisive and completely unnecessary process,” he said.

The 64-year-old, who was made £64 million richer after his former insurance firm Argenta was sold on Monday, said another referendum would be disruptive and see “people pitched against each other”.

The former Citibank banker said he is seeking fresh investment opportunities following the Argenta sale.


But he added: “It is hardly likely that you would put your first dollar or pound or whatever it is in your Scottish assets when you could probably be doing something in the rest of the UK.”

It was "entirely reasonable" to have another referendum at some point, said Mr Locke, but it was "ludicrous" before the full terms of Brexit are known.

Mr Locke, who supports the Conservative Party, has stressed how Scotland could not afford to go it alone.

But his position has changed markedly from a decade ago, when he declared: “Of course Scotland can stand on its own, and it’s very insulting to say it can’t.”

In 2014, he was one of more than 130 business leaders with Scottish operations who signed an open letter arguing the business case for independence had “not been made” and would prefer Scotland to “keep flourishing” as part of the UK.


His claims come as Graeme Roy of the Fraser of Allander Institute called on both the Scottish and UK governments to “provide clarity and reassurance” over independence and Brexit respectively.

He said: “Just as it is the responsibility of the UK Government to provide clarity and reassurance wherever possible through the Brexit process, it is incumbent on the Scottish Government to do likewise around independence and to re-double their efforts to support the Scottish economy through these unprecedented times.”

The report’s gloomy economic outlook comes as the former governor of the Bank of England said Scotland could “certainly” be an independent country but such a move would have financial consequences.


Lord Mervyn King said he did not see “any major problems” over the question of which currency an independent Scotland would use.

In response to the Fraser of Allander report, a Scottish Government spokesman said they were taking forward “a range of actions to do all we can” to support the Scottish economy.

The spokesman added: “By far the biggest threat to Scotland’s economy is a hard Brexit, which threatens to cost our economy around £11 billion a year by 2030, and cost the country 80,000 jobs over a decade.

“By giving people an alternative to a hard Brexit, the people of Scotland can choose to make their own decisions and to build on our strong economy...”