Scottish business confidence almost twice EU level

Despite a 'knife edge' environment business confidence across Scotland is high. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Despite a 'knife edge' environment business confidence across Scotland is high. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Business confidence in Scotland is significantly higher than across the UK and the EU, despite concerns over Brexit and the outlook for the oil and gas sector, according to a study published today

Accountancy firm Grant Thornton found in its international business report for the first quarter of this year that 67 per cent of Scottish businesses were optimistic about conditions over the next 12 months.

That “substantially” exceeded the EU average of 34 per cent and the UK figure of 44 per cent, but was down from 72 per cent in the last quarter of 2015.

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Scotland also came in higher than the UK average for business leaders expecting their turnover to grow in the next year, at 61 per cent compared to 51. However the figure north of the Border was down from 76 per cent last year.

However, the data contrasts with two key reports published on Monday finding that the economic backdrop dragged on Scottish businesses last month as the struggles faced by the oil and gas sector continued to take their toll.

Debbie Mayor, head of international at Grant Thornton in Scotland, said the figures from the survey come as “welcome news at a time of real fluctuation and volatility in global markets”.

But she acknowledged the difficult context, with Grant Thornton noting that globally, sentiment fell to its lowest level in three years. Mayor said Scotland’s “economy is increasingly international in its nature and the EU-wide survey results suggest that we face a challenging year ahead.”

She noted the various factors putting a strain on global markets, but said “it appears that Scotland’s business community remains resilient and focused on sustainable, long-term growth in the face of growing global challenges”.

A separate report published today by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) pointed to an “inconsistent” performance across Scotland’s key business sectors.

In its quarterly economic indicator, the SCC called for the new Scottish Government to put the economy “at the centre of its plan for government over the next five years… to make Scotland the most competitive place in the UK to do business”.

Liz Cameron, SCC’s director and chief executive, cited “anecdotal evidence that the EU referendum may be having an effect on the timings of some investments and deals”, adding: “Our economy is on a knife edge between growth and recession.”