Record inward investment despite referendum angst

THE prospect of Scottish independence did nothing to scare off global firms from investing in the country, official figures have suggested.

Materials from last year's Yes and No campaigns. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Materials from last year's Yes and No campaigns. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Almost 10,000 Scottish jobs were secured as a result of foreign investment during 2014-15 – a period that included the six-month build-up to last September’s referendum, which saw claims that international firms would be deterred by the possible constitutional instability after a Yes vote.

Figures from Scottish Development International (SDI) showed the quango directly helped generate more than £433 million of inward investment, safeguarding more than 3,000 well-paid jobs in the process.

Inward investment projects increased by almost 17 per cent to 91, while the total number of jobs created or safeguarded rose by almost 30 per cent to 9,659, 3192 of which were designated as “high value”, such as those in research and development or roles that pay more than 20 per cent above the Scottish average.

Materials from last year's Yes and No campaigns. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The figures indicate that Scotland’s raised international profile was a “key factor” in attracting inward investment across a range of priority sectors, including financial and business services, energy, food and drink, and life sciences.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the figures on a trip to Prestwick Airport, where she visited aviation technology group UTC Aerospace Systems.

She said: “These results demonstrate just how successful Scotland is at doing business. Last year was a record in terms of the jobs and projects that SDI was able to support. It is clear that Scotland has now firmly established itself, outside of London, as the most successful part of the UK for attracting international investment.”

Among the firms that announced plans to boost their presence in Scotland last year was outsourcing giant Capita, which said it would create more than 200 jobs in Glasgow as part of an £11m investment in its customer management and IT services divisions.

In the past month the FTSE 100 group has also snapped up two technology companies in Edinburgh – digital mapping specialist Sigma Seven and data analyst Barrachd, which has worked with the likes of Aegon and Standard Life. Both firms will form part of Capita’s digital and software solutions unit that also includes G2G3, the Lasswade company it bought in 2013.

The biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) deal last year came from US business service firm Concentrix, with plans to take on 500 people at its base in Gourock. Earlier this year, that headcount target was doubled.

The SDI report came after recent data from accountant EY showing that investment in Scotland from US firms hit its highest level in more than a decade last year, boosted by a sharp rise in manufacturing projects.

Although the total number of investments secured by Scotland dipped to 80, down from 82 the previous year, EY said that 2013 had seen the strongest performance for FDI since 1997.

While Scotland gains a higher proportion of its investments from France and Norway than the UK as a whole, deals from Germany and India lag behind. Meanwhile, China is the fifth-largest source of projects for the UK, but does not rank in the top ten origins for FDI in Scotland.

Lena Wilson, chief executive, Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland has demonstrated again its strengths as a fantastic place to invest in and grow a business. A highly skilled workforce, research capabilities and competitive infrastructure makes us extremely attractive to the world’s best companies.”