Concern voiced at ‘muted’ pre-Brexit economic performance

Neil Amner, chairman of Scottish Chamber of Commerce advisory group, expresses concern at economy slowing down ahead of Brexit vote. Picture: Martin Shields

Neil Amner, chairman of Scottish Chamber of Commerce advisory group, expresses concern at economy slowing down ahead of Brexit vote. Picture: Martin Shields

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BUSINESS leaders have called for tax breaks and certainty on the future of foreign workers amid signs that Scotland’s economy was slowing down ahead of the Brexit vote.

Construction was slowing, balances were down in the financial, business services, manufacturing and retail sectors, and tourism performance dropped markedly in the three months to June 30, a report by Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) found.

SCC said it remains to be seen how the Brexit vote has impacted on this already “muted” economic performance, and has called for Government measures to head off a further slowdown.

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Neil Amner, chair of the SCC economic advisory group, said: “The burning questions are how the vote for the UK to leave the European Union will affect businesses and what steps our governments in the UK and in Scotland should take to ensure that Scotland’s businesses continue to be the dynamo of economic growth.

“The Brexit vote does not come without its opportunities but business must be in the driving seat if we are to take advantage of these and, indeed, secure the stability that is needed to foster investment and deliver future growth.

“Central to future planning is the need for clarity on the future of talented individuals currently working in Scotland.

“Everyone must have the confidence that they will be able to fulfil their long-term ambitions in Scotland, whether they currently live here or not.

“Scotland must become an even more attractive place to do business and must actively reach out to the world to create new trading and investment opportunities.”

He called on Government “to reconsider policies which have sought to impose greater burdens on business” and use their “levers of power” to boost growth, with measures such as a cut in business rates, an accelerated reduction in Air Passenger Duty and shelving the Apprenticeship Levy.

The SCC report said: “Over the second quarter of 2016, business performance across the Scottish economy was more consistent than in the first quarter of the year, though both performance and optimism were generally lower than during the same period of 2015.”

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Construction is “showing signs of a slowdown”, the financial and business services sector reported “almost all balances down” on 2015, and many manufacturing balances “remain lower”.

Almost every key balance is lower in retail and wholesale distribution, and the performance in tourism “is markedly below the results for the same time last year”, it added.

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