Scots tech sector must not lose in pay stakes

DEMAND for Scotland’s expertise and our products is gradually returning to pre-recession levels with sustainable economic growth now a reality.

Scottish company Rockstar North had huge success with Grand Theft Auto V last year. Picture: Jane Barlow

The outlook is very positive with sectors such as food and drink, manufacturing and energy production witnessing rising orders both at home and abroad. But there are signs that one industry is failing to be fully recognised for its potential to reinforce the country as a global leader – technology.

In the 1990s, Silicon Glen kickstarted a wave of investment from overseas and helped to shape the view of Scotland as a natural home for technology firms.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Today, the Scottish ICT sector – only one part of this vast industry – employs around 47,000 people and contributes more than £3.6 billion every year to the Scottish economy.

However, across Britain, despite tech firms witnessing rising share prices and generally outperforming the wider market, recent research by Grant Thornton revealed senior executives at publicly listed UK technology firms were receiving substantially lower remuneration packages than their counterparts in other AIM-listed sectors. While this situation may not appear to have a major impact on Scotland’s tech sector, it does highlight a real issue that lack of financial investment that can hamper growth in an industry with great potential. Ultimately, if the rewards are higher in other sectors or global markets, the best executives could be attracted elsewhere.

Of course, money alone is not the only answer. Government has a role to play in helping to grow future industries. The Scottish Government recently outlined its vision that, by 2020, Scotland would enjoy a world-class, future-proofed digital infrastructure. Creating a digitally enabled economy provides a perfect platform for a flourishing and varied tech sector – from games development at firms such as Rockstar North to new digital firms playing innovative roles in developing Scotland’s other industries such as renewable energy and life sciences.

Scotland’s economic outlook is upbeat and confident. With the right infrastructure, investment and rewards in place, the technology sectors could create even brighter prospects.

• Neil McInnes is Head of Technology Scotland at Grant Thornton UK LLP