EDINBURGH — Scottish business leaders largely expressed relief on Friday after a sleepless night of watching the vote returns come in.
There was exhaustion. There was satisfaction. And there was even a flub by a London-based online furniture retailer, Made.com, which sent out an email offering “a little patriotic inspiration for the newly independent country” before retracting the message not long afterward.
Adrian Grace, the chief executive of the insurer Aegon UK, said he was looking forward to getting back to regular business after the distractions of the referendum. “There’s no doubt that it would have taken a large proportion of our time over the next two or three years, with enormous cost,” he said in an interview Friday morning.
Aegon UK is the Edinburgh-based division of the Dutch insurer Aegon and employs about 3,000 people in Britain. The vast majority of its policyholders are outside Scotland. The company had disclosed in the weeks leading up to the vote that it was making contingency plans to potentially move its business out of an independent Scotland.
Mr. Grace said that one big worry had been the uncertainty over what currency an independent Scotland might use. British politicians had indicated that sticking with the pound would not be an option. Spain, fearful of its own Catalonian separatist movement, seemed intent on keeping an independent Scotland out of the European Union — and, by extension, of the euro currency bloc. That raised the possibility that Scotland might be forced to create its own potentially volatile new currency.
“Quite simply policyholders didn’t expect to take currency risk or operate in a different regulatory environment,’’ Mr. Grace said. “For us, it would have been a monumental task.”
Voting returns suggested that some regions of Scotland felt they had more to lose than others, with border towns and Aberdeen, the city at the center of the country’s oil industry, tilting particularly heavily toward maintaining the union.
The oil company BP, which had raised alarms about independence, offered a measured statement on Friday, saying it expected to “continue to work closely with both the U.K. and Scottish governments to realize our shared ambition of maximizing economic recovery from the North Sea.”
Michelle Mone, founder and chief executive of Ultimo, a Glasgow-based lingerie line that is part of MAS Holdings, a Sri Lankan company, had threatened to move her company’s headquarters to London.
“It would have been more difficult to run a business,” she said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen with our currency. We didn’t have a currency because the Bank of England said we weren’t getting the pound. And we didn’t know what was going to happen to all of the other public services.”
“We really didn’t know anything, and the uncertainty was a real worry,” she added. “Now we can get back to business.”
She said that her stance had led to “abuse online and on Twitter, but now I’m putting that behind me,” adding, “Thank goodness we’re still part of the U.K.”
Besides currency uncertainties, there was also a running dispute about an independent Scotland’s finances. The confidence expressed by leaders of the independence movement that Scotland would be able to claim most of Britain’s North Sea oil wealth flew in the face of industry experts’ assessments that energy revenues would diminish over time and that big oil companies might think twice about making the big investments necessary to develop new offshore fields in deeper waters.
And yet, while the business community, and certainly multinational corporations, generally opposed independence, there were some supporters within the Scottish business world. But they were largely quiet in the vote’s aftermath. Business for Scotland, a pro-independence coalition, did not return calls or email messages on Friday morning.
The coalition’s Twitter feed trailed off early Friday morning before the outcome was decided. Its last post amid the vote counting and its aftermath came early in the cycle, saying “Overall total after 3 results – No at 59.2% and Yes at 40.8%. Still a long way to go.”
One of Scotland’s big industries, and a major exporter, is whisky distilling. Proud as they might be of their Scottish heritage, few distillers were eager to lose the trade privileges that go with being part of Britain and the European Union.
The Scotch Whisky Association has 56 members, from local Scottish companies to multinational giants like London-based Diageo.
“We had been talking about the risks of independence since the beginning of the year, really,’’ said David Frost, the group’s chief executive, running through the worry list. “Risks around international support for our industry, for our exports, risks associated with not being in the E.U. for a time, currency issues and so on,” he said. “So those are all big questions, and it’s good we don’t have to face those risks.”
Mr. Frost said he stayed up to watch the results. “It wasn’t as close as some people were anticipating,” he said, “so some of the suspense wasn’t there.”
Mr. Grace, of Aegon UK, was also among the sleepless.
“If I sound a little tired, I was watching the results coming in,” he said. “Something this momentous doesn’t happen often.”
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Scottish readers: Undecided about the referendum? Please read How the media shafted the people of Scotland and Scottish Independence, Power And Propaganda.