SCOTLAND needs to raise its game when it comes to entrepreneurship, the country’s highest-profile businessman said yesterday, despite news of a jump in the number of people looking to become self-employed.
Sir Tom Hunter claimed a “lack of ambition” was undermining the nation’s success on the world stage and warned that standing still could prove costly.
His remarks came as research revealed the number of Scots expecting to start their own business in the next three years was significantly higher last year than in 2010.
The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that the proportion of working age individuals on the brink of going it alone had leapt from 6 per cent to almost 10 per cent.
The report noted that a “long slow decline” in early-stage entrepreneurial activity had been arrested in 2011.
The monitor was compiled by Professor Jonathan Levie of Strathclyde University’s Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. Hunter – credited as Scotland’s first home-grown billionaire – donated £5m to establish the centre in 2000.
Levie said: “It is encouraging that entrepreneurial intention has increased and this could lead to an increase in actual new business creation rates.
“The long, slow decline in early-stage entrepreneurial activity also appears to have been arrested, if not reversed, in 2011.
“However, while there is room for optimism, more needs to be done to turn the intention to start a business into reality. Scottish entrepreneurs still face challenges in getting funding, customers and staff.
“There is also considerable scepticism across the Scottish public about the wisdom of embarking on an entrepreneurial career, despite the relatively high status afforded to successful entrepreneurs,” added Levie, who also co-directs the UK-wide GEM programme.
Access to finance continues to be one of the key barriers to launching a business, with half of non-entrepreneurs thinking it would be their biggest hurdle and almost half of those in business citing it as their biggest difficulty.
The survey also revealed that the proportion of staff in small businesses engaged in new business activity for their employer is significantly lower in Scotland than in the UK as a whole – despite high levels of recognition by employees that their companies provided support to those who came up with ideas.
Hunter said: “The report shows that the proportion of working-age individuals who intend to start a business has also increased, but if we are to succeed on a global stage, we need to do more.
“In many areas we are no longer lagging behind the rest of the UK. Perhaps some of our initiatives in education are now starting to bear fruit, as founders’ knowledge of how to start in business in Scotland compares favourably to the UK.
“Now we need ambition that avoids or jumps the hurdles, innovation that doesn’t expect government to provide, or you or me to solve problems. We need entrepreneurs that get on with it.”
Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said: “There still seems to be a significant gap between the public’s view of what it takes to run a business and the reality. This has to be addressed.”
Finance secretary John Swinney said: “The findings of this report are hugely encouraging and show increasing rates of entrepreneurialism and business start-ups, which are key to our aim of building a stronger and more prosperous Scotland.”
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