COMMENT: Scotland needs new start-up businesses

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It is entrepreneurs who will shape the economic landscape, writes Michael Westmacott

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) quotes Scottish government statistics to show that small and medium-sized enterprises now account for well over 90 per cent of all Scottish businesses and for more than half of all private sector employment.

If Scotland is to seriously consider voting Yes, then we must also be convinced that independence is an opportunity for small companies to grow, and for entrepreneurs to create new ones.

Last year, some 526,000 UK businesses were registered with Companies House – nearly 100,000 more than in 2011.

Of those, more than 136,000 start-ups were in Greater London, more than one in five of new companies, despite having one in eight of the UK’s population. A report from the Centre for Cities says that London is creating ten times more private sector jobs than Edinburgh (with just over 7,000 start-ups). Glasgow saw more than 8,000 new registrations.

To put it simply, we need entrepreneurial spirit to be shared across the UK, because regional economic growth and prosperity generates greater local demand for goods and services.

It’s why interventions by the likes of Sir Tom Hunter are so important because his mission is to see Scotland embrace entrepreneurialism with greater enthusiasm – whichever way Scotland votes.

While entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high, we have some way to go to match the level of start-ups in, for example, the USA and Canada. Part of the problem seems to be that we want to leave education and get a job – creating our own company remains a second best for many.

But things are changing. The Curriculum for Excellence is building the world of work into the curriculum, and colleges of further and higher education are focusing more on enterprise.

The new world economies are being driven by ever-changing technologies. Adapt, innovate or die has never been so apposite.

Yes or No, Scotland the Brand is attracting global coverage, and from salmon to whisky, golf to haggis, our reputation for product quality is internationally recognised. It’s something we have to capitalise on.

The future increasingly lies with entrepreneurs who can shape the new economic landscape, building new companies than can become big companies, and embed a growing spirit of entrepreneurship in Scotland. That will also take more joined- up thinking from politicians, think-tanks, educationalists and business leaders.

While the big numbers of future economic growth will be global, the reality is that every new company starts out small, and we should celebrate small as well as big. Whatever the referendum outcome, Scotland needs entrepreneurs like never before.

• Michael Westmacott is a partner in Scottish PR agency Laidlaw Westmacott.