Scottish SMEs call for Prime Minister to step aside amid economic recovery concerns

A majority of bosses at small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland want Boris Johnson to step aside amid concerns about the pace of economic recovery, according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 1,000 SME “decision makers” by Atomik, on behalf of workspace provider and advice Newable, also reveals that the rising cost of materials remains the number one challenge for businesses, with 48 per cent citing the issue.

That was followed by labour and skills shortages (mentioned by 38 per cent of firms) and cash flow issues (28 per cent).

According to the findings, 78 per cent want the Prime Minister forced out of his leadership role amid the ongoing political backlash and worries about the state of the UK economy.

Chris Manson is the chief executive of Newable. Picture: Andy Barmer

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of Scottish SMEs are concerned about new variants of Covid and the impact on their business revenue - compared to 77 per cent across the UK as a whole, suggesting Scottish bosses are more concerned about the impact any variants may have on their businesses.

This is aligned to a drop in confidence with regards to wider UK economic recovery, with 41 per cent of Scottish SMEs believing it will take more than 24 months to recover from the pandemic.

Mirroring this, 68 per cent are currently delaying investment decisions until the economy is in a more stable situation, compared to 58 per cent UK-wide.

Just 37 per cent of Scottish SMEs have acquired new finance over the past 12 months, however 41 per cent of firms expect to borrow more money next year as they get to grips with ongoing challenges.

Among the survey’s other findings, 73 per cent of businesses said productivity had not been impacted by home working. However, long term the jury is split, with 47 per cent of SMEs expecting their employees to return to the office or workplace full time while a similar percentage expect hybrid working to remain in place.

Chris Manson, chief executive of Newable, said: “Despite the ‘back to normal’ narrative from the government, concerns around weak political leadership threaten to undermine economic recovery, with Scottish SMEs still feeling uncertain and cautious about the future.

“Despite the current landscape, history has shown repeatedly that UK businesses are remarkably resilient with many pivoting or adapting their offering. For many businesses, hybrid working is here to stay which can be a significant cost-saver as they shun the larger traditional fixed premises in favour of smaller, flexible spaces that give them options.

“Reflecting an increased focus on ESG [environmental, social and governance] at both business and consumer level, the growing desire for sustainable workspaces that play their part in reducing environmental impacts must also be seen as a hugely positive thing to come out of the pandemic.”

Newable said that while the pandemic has brought challenges, it has also “shone a positive light on sustainability”. Aligned to shifting ESG trends and increased awareness from COP26, 90 per cent of Scottish SMEs now cite having a sustainable office environment as being important.

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