Pharma cheered by Scotland’s ‘no’ vote

The decision by Scotland’s voters to remain in the United Kingdom has been welcomed by investors and businesses at home and abroad.

The final referendum result which emerged in the early hours of this morning showed a narrow but decisive 55 per cent to 45 per cent split in favour of the ‘No’ to independence campaign.

The response was immediate in the currency markets, with the pound at one point rising to a two-year high against the euro and a two-week high against the US dollar, before falling back.

Shares on London’s FTSE stock market also rose strongly on the news, and the positive response was sealed with confirmation from bank RBS that it would maintain its head office in Edinburgh.

Support for remaining in the UK had not been unanimous within Scotland’s business community, with a sizeable number of firms getting behind the ‘Yes’ campaign, despite the uncertainty of what independence would have meant for commerce and the economy.

In the life sciences sector, sentiment was also mixed, though concerns about the loss of UK wide grants for basic medical research meant many took a pro-UK stance.

ABPI Scotland, which represents the research-based pharmaceutical industry in the UK, had almost certainly been in the ‘No’ camp, but had kept a low profile during the campaign, and had not publicly supported either side of the debate.

If Scotland had voted for independence, the ABPI would have had to negotiate a new Scotland-only pricing deal, as the current PPRS is a UK-wide agreement.  Beyond this concern, the devolved Scottish government already controls spending and regulation of Scotland’s national health service, and has diverged considerably from England’s NHS in recent years.

Scotland’s parliament in Edinburgh will now be given greater tax-raising powers as part of the deal for remaining in the UK.

ABPI Scotland responded to the news with a statement titled: ‘Let’s get down to business’ – suggesting that the referendum campaign had been a distraction from some of the more pressing issues in the sector. It said it was looking forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that patients in Scotland get greater, more rapid access to new medicines and the research and business environment supports the growth of the critical medicines sector.

Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director of ABPI Scotland said:

“The pharmaceutical sector in Scotland is already the single largest contributor to Scottish industrial R&D, and is the largest of all Scotland’s life sciences sectors. It is a unique industry that researches and develops cutting-edge, life-saving medicines while at the same time making such a valuable contribution to the economy. Given the right commercial environment, the sector can continue to be at the cutting edge of Scotland’s science-based economy.

“ABPI will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that Scotland has the best possible business and research environment as well as access to the latest, most innovative medicines for Scottish patients.”

One of the key issues during the referendum campaign was the future of the NHS in Scotland, England and the UK. Concerns about privatisation and a lack of adequate funding for healthcare is likely to be a key issue in the aftermath of the referendum, and in the run up to the UK-wide general election in May next year.

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