Ron Hastings offers opinion on Brexit and the Borders property market

by Ron Hastings

14 April 2017

The vital question is, will it be a lasting Brexit Bonus, or is it merely a Brexit Bounce that will flop after the initial burst of energy? 

As arguments rage back and forth across the political sea of uncertainty, in truth no one knows the answer. 

Opportunities

Scotland offers opportunities north of the border that are increasingly sought after by our neighbours down south. These include the continued desire to remain connected to Europe in some shape or form, greater social benefits for those needing care in later life, and at the other end of the age spectrum, free university places with no student fees - not to mention baby boxes, no prescription charges and perhaps a greater sense of social cohesion. 

While there are undoubtedly those that have concerns in relation to the possibility of separation, the looming prospect of a second Referendum on independence is now clouded by the Brexit effect. The question has become bigger and the waters muddier, so it’s no longer a simple question of yes-no, in out, better together or apart? The irony is that better together in the UK could also mean apart from the EU, a position none of the mainstream political leaders or parties campaigned for, leaving some with a sense of injustice that the vote to leave was won with a narrow majority - but with heavy weighting in the south due to issues such as immigration not considered a factor in Scotland - where the vast majority voted remain. 

Increased sale of properties

On the upside, the initial positive reaction in Borders region is being played out in the property market, which is currently seeing an increase in enquiries from southern buyers. Interestingly, since the post-Brexit summer of 2016, sales of properties in the Scottish Borders have increased by some 20%. This would appear to be in sharp contrast to the reaction to the Scottish Independence Referendum and reports of companies and individuals planning to exit and relocate south of the Border. Contrast that with the reaction to the Brexit vote, where we have seen almost a complete reversal of the previous mindset with a steady flow of individuals (if not companies) making a positive choice to move north. 

Open doors and open minds

The Scottish Borders has been a happy beneficiary and is a natural home, given its close proximity and many ties with England, interconnected families and cross-border arrangements – a situation shared with other countries within mainland Europe. The thought of a ‘hard’ border with the south is difficult to imagine, although if the in-flow continues to grow perhaps there will be calls for a Trump-style wall to keep the English out – cue a historic flashback to the notorious cross-border raids undertaken by the Border Reivers. Surely the only sensible arrangement would to continue with open doors and open minds so that all, north and south of the border, are made welcome. 

I recall some unease expressed over the Tourist Board’s strapline, which is still on signs welcoming travellers entering our region with the double-edged message: ‘It’s OUR Scottish Borders.’ It’s fine to be proud of where you live, but equally important to put out messages that make visitors and those settling here feel welcome. Vive la difference but cherish shared values as friends and neighbours and whatever lies ahead, most of all let us never forget that we are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns! 

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