Scotland’s economic recovery is gaining pace, with businesses in construction, wholesale, manufacturing and tourism all reporting higher levels of confidence in the first three months of this year.
Releasing its long-running quarterly business survey today, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) said that nearly every key performance measure had returned to pre-recession levels. The sole drop in confidence was among retailers, whose overall sales unexpectedly declined.
SCC chief executive Liz Cameron said the signs point to sustained economic growth, but added that some fragilities remain.
“Investment intentions of Scottish businesses are encouraging, with the manufacturing industry showing superb results with higher levels of investment than at any time in the past six years and robust growth in export orders shown by a consistent increase over five consecutive quarters,” she said.
“Whilst investment levels in the construction sector remain low, for only the second time in five years investment has not declined, and over 70 per cent of businesses in the sector have either maintained or increased commercial and domestic orders compared with the last quarter.”
Cameron added that nearly 90 per cent of construction businesses expect employee numbers to remain the same or increase in the next three months. During the first quarter, less than 14 per cent were forced to cut staff numbers.
The survey follow yesterday’s more sobering news that growth in the Scottish economy slowed to just 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, well adrift of the 0.7 per cent expansion in the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Much of the gap was blamed upon the closure of the Grangemouth plant in October as the result of an industrial dispute.
Today’s findings from the SCC will be seen as evidence that economic activity is returning to more normal levels, a premise further strengthened by recent robust figures from the Bank of Scotland’s latest purchasing managers’ index.