Comment: Clouds over Scottish job prospects

FOR many years, Scotland’s employment prospects have largely been a play on oil and financial services, the former Aberdeen-centric and the latter spearheaded by Edinburgh and Glasgow. Little wonder, then, that the slump in the oil price has meant Scotland is the only UK region with a negative jobs outlook in the latest Manpower survey.

Martin Flanagan. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA
Martin Flanagan. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA

And it’s also no surprise that what the report calls “glimmers of positivity” seem to be restricted to the financial services industry. However, even with insurance, banking, fund management, etc picking up some of the slack for Scotland, the jobs outlook has fallen to its lowest level in two years.

The Scottish mood is more pessimistic, a full eight points lower than it was heading into last September’s independence referendum.

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As well as jobs availability, salaries have also been hit, the two often moving in tandem together, either up or down.

Martin Flanagan. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA

It was hardly likely that salaries would continue to boom in oil against the backdrop of a shaken resources sector, and there may be an extended period of battening down the hatches on oil pay.

Manpower reckons some private companies are adopting a “wait and see” approach on hiring as we head into another period of electoral uncertainty, this time with the looming general election on 7 May.

Even with the drift into negative territory, it is hardly a bombshell report on jobs for Scotland, and certainly not for the UK, given the much greater optimism in the English regions. But it is a chilly draught north of the Border, nevertheless.

…but Scottish SMEs putting in a shift

A TOTAL of 76 small and medium sized Scottish businesses (SMEs) have been listed by the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as among Britain’s 1,000 fastest growing and most dynamic enterprises. They are a mixed sectoral grouping, ranging from brewing and plumbing to energy and distilling.

To have approaching 8 per cent of the publicly quoted SME band rated most highly by the London exchange is no mean feat, a source of some justifiable pride. Drilling down, the LSE report, which has cross-party support from leading politicians, also has some interesting other nuggets.

The digital revolution goes on, with IT the best performing sector – average annual revenue growth between 2010 and 2014 of 350 per cent.

And, on the wider business canvas, many of these highly rated businesses clearly have the stamina for sustained improvement – they are not one-year wonders.

Nearly 150 of the top companies are included on the list for the second time. In short, it looks like Britain’s entrepreneurs are going strong.