Identifying an estimated seven per cent of the Scottish population (247,000 adults) as
actively engaged in setting up a business or already running one over the past three-and-a-
half years, the report suggests a further 194,000 active entrepreneurs were already engaged
in running more established businesses. Among these numbers are around 60,000 young
people - 13% of 18 to 24-year-olds – operating as early-stage entrepreneurs, the highest
rate among the home nations. This represents significant progress with entrepreneurship
among under-30s in Scotland steadily growing from being the lowest in the UK in 2009.
However, a note of concern was raised about the level of female entrepreneurship in
Scotland where just 5.3% of adult women were either trying to set up a new business or
running one in 2020 compared to 9.3% of men. This gender gap has changed little over the
last decade making the gulf between male and female entrepreneurs in Scotland the highest
amongst the home nations.
While the figures highlighted in the GEM report are encouraging in many ways and will be
broadly welcomed, they uncover areas where additional focus is required to ensure we can
better support entrepreneurship to maximise its impact in driving Scotland’s post-Covid
Scottish Government figures from earlier this month show how the nation’s GDP grew 0.9%
in June 2021, fuelled mainly by growth in the services sector. GDP remains 2.1% below its
pre-pandemic level in February 2020, making the need for further entrepreneurial activity
The challenge now is to ensure the rising number of Scottish-based entrepreneurs can
access the support they need to maximise their business potential to create jobs and wealth
which will deliver wider economic benefit. We must also explore ways to support more
women into entrepreneurship to ensure we create an eco-system where they can thrive in
greater numbers. Promoting greater collaboration and collective working to support both
existing entrepreneurs and inspire others to come forward will be at the heart of tackling both
of these key challenges.
Collaborative partnerships, like the one between Young Enterprise Scotland and the Future
Economy Company are inspiring young people to develop an interest in business and
helping grow the entrepreneur base in Scotland. The CanDo Collective’s Green Economy
Collab provides another example of how entrepreneurial businesses in the drive for net-zero
solutions are being supported by coming together to exchange ideas and discuss challenges
within their sector.
Using this approach is also essential in inspiring more women to pursue entrepreneurial
opportunities and overcoming barriers such as disproportionate caring responsibilities or lack
of access to wider networks that can prevent innovative female-led businesses from thriving.
We need to further develop the collective working practices that exist within female-focused
business groups such as Women’s Business Station, Women’s Enterprise Scotland,
Investing Women Angels, and Business Women Scotland to achieve this important
While the growing numbers of Scottish entrepreneurs identified in the GEM Report gives us
encouragement, most will only succeed with additional support. Part of the answer lies in
collective and collaborative working, which remains essential in helping new businesses to
survive and thrive.
Hazel Jane, Convenor of the Can Do Collective