The global economic downturn caused huge problems for businesses across Scotland. Industries, such as the finance sector in Edinburgh, were devastated, while “future” sectors, such as renewable energy, found it increasingly difficult to access private capital as companies became more cautious with their investments.
Today, the signs are thankfully different. The latest ICAEW/Grant Thornton UK Business Confidence Monitor shows confidence levels in Scotland are on a continuing upward trend. Recruitment is up, with staffing levels at their fastest growth rate since 2008 and all the signs are that future performance is expected to get even better.
The evidence indicates that the corner has been turned thanks to business leaders accepting that the old days of working in a “silo-like” fashion are over. The successful campaign to bring the UK’s new Green Investment Bank to Edinburgh is a great example of political and business leaders working in partnership for the greater good. All parties agreed that by pooling resources and speaking with a shared voice, they could succeed in convincing the decision makers to locate in Scotland. That kind of approach isn’t just helping restore business confidence. It’s also creating a strong platform for the country’s firms to compete on the international stage.
The Scottish success is even evidenced here at Grant Thornton UK, where we’ve bolstered our team at senior level with a number of key appointments. We’ve recruited highly experienced people to meet growing demand for our services in fields including tax management, assurance and financial planning.
While conditions are looking positive, we’re not out of the woods. Scotland and the wider UK are exposed to the ongoing instability within the eurozone. Further afield, the country faces the challenge of proving itself against the growing dominance of the Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as other rapidly developing nations.
What is clear is that Scotland has found its business voice and, by working together and focusing on sustainable growth, all indications are that the country’s economic fortunes are very positive.
• Sandra Rodger is practice leader for Grant Thornton UK in Edinburgh