Scottish small firms' market uncertainty concerns grow

Other key hurdles cited by Scottish firms included concern over the value of the pound. Picture: Jon Savage.
Other key hurdles cited by Scottish firms included concern over the value of the pound. Picture: Jon Savage.
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The percentage of small businesses in Scotland that see market uncertainty as stopping their business from growing has increased over the last six months – with 71 per cent overall saying they feel stifled by factors beyond their control.

A study published today by Hitachi Capital Business Finance – spanning 1,200-plus small firms – found that 41 per cent of those in Scotland cited market uncertainty as their main barrier to growth – up from 36 per cent six months previously.

Other key hurdles cited by Scottish firms included concern over the value of the pound, which increased to 14 per cent in October from 10 per cent in May.

Other areas in Scotland that saw an increase in concern were uncertainty as to the future of the business – up to 26 per cent from 15 per cent – but fears over red tape (such as excessive bureaucracy and regulation) dropped by two percentage points to reach 11 per cent.

Gavin Wraith-Carter, MD at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, commented: “With the upcoming General Election, it seems highly unlikely that there will be a clear position on government policy or Brexit until after the Christmas break.

Unknowns

“For many small businesses, this will mean planning for a New Year with lots of unknowns as market factors. This could play out with us seeing dip in business confidence at the start of 2020 although, longer term, when the sector has greater certainty to plan against we envisage small businesses will be the first to see change as an opportunity to grow and diversify.”

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Meanwhile, a separate study has found that businesses in Edinburgh and Glasgow are the least likely to predict expansion and more likely to expect downsizing.

Global software consultancy ThoughtWorks asked businesses about their outlook over the 12 months after a presumed Brexit. It found that Glasgow and Edinburgh came in at 18 and 17 per cent respectively regarding their hope of growth opportunities to move into new markets – compared to 30 per cent nationally and 40 per cent in London.

However, when it came to the expectation of downsizing, preparing for a loss of business, this came in at 12 and 14 per cent compared to 8 per cent nationally.

Edinburgh businesses were the most likely to say they were concerned about exposure to cyber-attacks – at 25 per cent – and the same percentage reported being highly likely to worry about the prospect of economic protectionism and trade wars after Brexit.

Additionally, more than a third of Glasgow firms forecasted tech issues as the biggest threat to continuity after Brexit.

Jim Gumbley, head of cyber security at ThoughtWorks UK, highlighted ways technology leaders can best address cyber risk and data protection effectively. These include communicating risks and data protection requirements.