Political woes fail to dent profits and jobs at Scots firms

Scotland's biggest private companies boosted their headcounts, raised salaries and enjoyed stronger profits last year, despite a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, a report today shows.

William Grant & Sons topped the list.

Grant Thornton’s annual Scotland Limited report assesses the commercial performance over the past 12 months of the country’s top 100 privately owned limited businesses.

The accountancy group’s latest study reveals a collective turnover of £21.4 billion, up from £20.8bn in 2016. Total profits before taxation increased from £1.4bn in 2016 to £1.6bn last year.

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Meanwhile, the total number of people employed by the top 100 firms rose from 110,632 to 119,087 over the course of the 12 months, with total remuneration increasing from £3.1bn to £3.3bn.

The nation’s food and drink sector dominates the list, with 25 companies in the top 100, up from 24 in 2016. The list includes William Grant & Sons at number one and Famous Grouse-maker Edrington Group taking third place.

The 25-strong group witnessed a combined turnover of £4.9bn – up from £3.7bn a year earlier. The collective headcount of those food and drink firms rose from 19,239 to 24,552.

Andrew Howie, managing partner of Grant Thornton in Scotland, said: “2017 was undoubtedly a challenging year for the Scottish economy but there’s little doubt that resilience and a sharper focus on achieving sustainable, long-term growth have become embedded in our industrial strategy, which has helped to counter the global challenges that lie ahead.”

James Chadwick, head of food and drink at Grant Thornton in Scotland, added: “Scotland’s food and drink companies have good reason to celebrate, after another incredibly impressive year of growth.

“Key to the success has been a genuine commitment to collaborate, enabling the widest possible range of companies – from small start-ups to long-established family-run operations, to build on each other’s success and champion a single Scottish food and drink brand on the global marketplace.”

The ongoing challenges facing Scotland’s energy sector were reflected in this year’s report with the number of firms from the industry group down from nine in 2016 to seven. Total turnover slipped from £1.4bn to £1.2bn. However, 2017’s data offers some optimistic indications for the year ahead, with the total number of employees up from 6,990 to 7,316.

Barry Fraser, Grant Thornton’s head of energy and natural resources in Scotland, said: “The oil price has also now improved and there are positive signs that this will help increase investment into the sector.

“We’re not out of the woods yet but Scotland’s energy sector will continue to have an important role to play in the country’s economy for years to come.”