Oxford Technology VCTs and Scottish Independence

Today the two Oxford Technology VCTs that were threatened with withdrawal of VCT status have announced that the changes required by HMRC to enable them to retain VCT status have been achieved and accepted by HMRC. Presumably that has required the disposal of some of the Scancell shares that were the source of the difficulty and that has been confirmed in the announcements.

This therefore probably concludes the campaign on these VCTs that ShareSoc mounted as there has been an almost complete success. The only possible issue remaining is the historic poor financial performance of all the Oxford Technology VCTs.

I was amused to see the comments of Alex Salmond that the Treasury had leaked the news to the press of the proposed transfer of the registration of Royal Bank of Scotland to England if the independence vote was won. He complained it was “market sensitive” information which had not been announced in an RNS as it should be. Mr Salmond has demanded a formal “leak inquiry”, but he may find that is pointless as Jim Hacker famously did. The result will be so delayed, and the answer so fudged, that it will be a dead issue when any report comes out.

Now do I not recall such complaints before? Indeed yes. Shareholders in both Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley complained about damaging leaks from the Treasury which depressed the share price and helped to force these companies into such a dire financial position that the Government had to nationalise them. Some of course considered the actions were such as to enable the Labour Government to start taking control of banks which they had always wanted to do. There was never proof of such leaks but the Governor of the Bank of England hinted that he knew where they probably came from.

The latest ShareSoc newsletter which contains some analysis of the Scottish independence issues is about to be issued. But on a straw poll of ShareSoc directors, not a single one would be in favour of it even if they lived in Scotland (albeit that only one of them is a Scotsman by birth). The financial press is also certainly supporting a No vote in general, as are a lot of major companies. But it may still be a close run thing.

Roger Lawson

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