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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Scottish business growth grinds to a halt

Latest RBS Scottish Business Monitor reveals a slowdown across most of the country except Edinburgh which was boosted by the financial services sector

Business growth in Scotland stalled in the first quarter of 2018, according to a report published today (MON) by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The bank’s latest Scottish Business Monitor report revealed a slowdown across most of the country with the exception of the Edinburgh area which was boosted by the financial services sector.

Export growth continues to slide with capital spend also reducing across the country, according to the report produced by the Fraser of Allander Institute .

However, despite the weak start to the year firms expect a strong rebound over the next six months.

The latest figures show that the country has experienced the weakest volume of business in two years.
The survey of more than 400 Scottish businesses reveals that a third (32%) of firms said turnover rose in the three months to March. Thirty two per cent reported that turnover fell. The balance, +0%, compares with +10% in the final quarter of 2017.
Firms in production industries report a modest rise in turnover (+3%) while a small balance of service firms report that sales fell (-2%).

In total, 16% of firms expect sales to grow in the six months to September, with a stronger rebound in services (+20%) than in production (+8%).

One in six (16%) of exporters reported that export activity rose in the three months to March, with one in five (21%) reporting a decline. The balance, -5%, compared with +13% in Q4 2017 and is the first decline since late 2016. Exports declined in both services (-5%) and production (-7%). However 7% of firms expect export activity to rise in the six months to September.

Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “Following a challenging 2017, this first Scottish Business Monitor of the year shows that the Scottish economy continues to face challenging trading conditions.

“Firms in the survey reported a slowdown in some key trends but businesses expect many of these trends to pick up during the remainder of 2018. For example, the survey finds that export activity unexpectedly fell, however on balance firms expect export activity to grow over the coming 6 months.

Sebastian Burnside, chief economist with RBS, said: “Scottish businesses are eagerly anticipating an end to the squeeze on household finances.
“Inflation was still eating away at people's pay packets in the first quarter of this year, leading to businesses reporting stable revenues. But looking forward there's confidence that demand will pick up as price pressures start to ease.”

Source : Insider 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Food and drink trade with China increases 150% in ten years

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the “astonishing” growth in Scotland’s food and drink exports to China – and said that strengthening international trade links are key to promoting inclusive economic growth, social justice and human rights around the world.

Exports of food and drink to China have increased by more than 150% in the last 10 years, highlighting China’s growing importance as a market for Scottish goods.

Scotch whisky exports accounted for the majority, worth some £61 million – up 45% compared to 2007.
Fish and seafood continues to be the primary food export to China, valued at about £50 million  in 2017 – up more than 12-fold compared to the value in 2007. China currently ranks ninth in Scotland’s top ten 
food export markets.

A range of Scottish industries and activities are experiencing growing interest from the Chinese market, and promoting these will be a key objective of the First Minister’s first official visit to China in three years, which begins today (Sunday).

The First Minister begins her visit in Beijing before visiting Shanghai and Hong Kong later this week. She will carry out a series of high-level government and business meetings, alongside cultural and educational engagements.
The First Minister said:

“The astonishing growth in Scottish food and drink exports to China in recent years is testament not only to the high quality of our food and drink produce, but also a stark reminder of the huge opportunities open to us in the Chinese market.

“Of course, food and drink is not the only sector that has been experiencing growing trade – total goods exports to China across the whole of the Scottish economy increased by more than 40% last year.
“My visit this week is an opportunity to further promote the best of Scotland in the world’s second-largest economy. It will also help to deepen the long-standing cultural, education and tourism links that exist between Scotland and China.

“There is no doubt that, for a country of 5 million people, Scotland punches well above its weight in terms of international brand recognition and cultural influence.

“Making the most of these strengths is absolutely key to our future prosperity – but it can have much wider benefits as well. The more we can strengthen our overseas links and deepen our relationships, the more opportunity we have to promote our values of social justice and human rights around the world.”

Source : SBNN

Scottish wind power enjoys record-breaking start to 2018

Onshore wind output hits record high in Scotland in first three months of the year, according to WWF

Onshore wind turbines in Scotland are set for another bumper year of generation, with figures for the first three months of 2018 revealing a 44 per cent uptick in wind power output compared to the same time last year.

New data released today from WWF Scotland shows onshore wind turbines provided 5,353,997MWh of green electricity to the National Grid during the first quarter of 2018, enough power to provide the equivalent of five million homes with low-carbon electricity.

Wind power hit its peak for the quarter on March 1, when generation totalled 110,149MWh - 173 per cent of Scotland's entire electricity demand. Even on the worst day for wind during the quarter, January 11, turbines still generated enough electricity to power more than 575,000 homes.

"Renewables have provided an incredible amount of power during the first three months of this year," Sam Gardner, WWF Scotland's acting director, said in a statement. "An increase of 44 per cent on the record-breaking equivalent period in 2017 is clear evidence the investment made in this technology has paid off for the economy and the environment, putting Scotland at the forefront of the fight against climate change."

The news follows data showing that wind and solar power generation overtook nuclear during the final quarter of last year to become the UK's second highest source of electricity - behind gas - for the first time ever.

Source : BusinessGreen 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Flatlining growth paints grim picture for Scottish economy

Scotland’s economy is facing a grim outlook with a warning from business chiefs that the country’s flatlining growth will continue to lag behind the rest of the UK. 

The state of the domestic economy has been singled out as a barrier to growth in a survey by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) in Scotland with a looming squeeze on household budgets likely hold back the prospect of an imminent recovery. 

The Scottish Government said its commitment to economic development dwarves the rest of the UK, but opponents insist a “punishing” tax regime imposed by ministers is hurting smaller firms. 

The latest Scottish Small Business Index showed that confidence among firms is still in negative territory at -17.8 points for the first quarter, although this has eased a few points on the record low of the previous quarter.

Over the same period, the equivalent UK index climbed from -2.5 points to +6.0 points. 

FSB Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said: “Scottish firms are still gloomy about prospects, and far less optimistic than the average UK business. If we’re to restore Scottish confidence and turn firms’ investment ambitions into reality, we need to do more to reassure our business community. 

“Last week, valuable details emerged regarding the Brexit transition period. This is a step in the right direction – but as many businesses plan many years in advance, we must see the final Brexit terms as soon as possible.” 

The FSB’s research shows that more than half (55 per cent) of the businesses surveyed identify the condition of the domestic economy as a barrier to growth. And a net balance of 13.5 per cent of Scottish small businesses reported a fall in revenues over the past three months. Concerns regarding consumer demand were identified as the second largest barrier to growth for Scottish small businesses. On a UK-wide basis, the FSB’s research showed that firms in sectors reliant on consumer spending – such as retailers and hospitality businesses – are markedly less confident.

The balance of firms looking to increase investment is down slightly on the last quarter, but still shows that a majority of Scottish firms are prepared to spend. 

Scotland’s economy has been lagging behind the rest of the UK in recent years. The most recent GDP figures for the third quarter of 2017 showed that Scottish growth of 0.2 per cent was half the rate across the UK. The recently established Scottish Fiscal Commission warned in its inaugural forecast in December that the economy is facing “subdued” growth over the next five years. The independent body has predicted the Scottish economy will grow at less than 1 per cent per year until 2022. 

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, warned a looming squeeze on spending could further undermine growth. 

A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers are “absolutely committed” to growing the economy.

But Conservative economy spokesman Dean Lockhart said: “With a punishing tax regime and an SNP government which does nothing to help business, it’s no wonder firms in Scotland are less optimistic about the future.” 

Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP has held back Scotland’s economy for more than ten years, doing nothing but tinker around the edges.”

Source : The Scotsman 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

How the Brexit fishing row affects Scotland - and why it matters

Despite fears that it could be a recreation of the ‘Battle of the Thames’ (the bizarre clash between rival pro and anti EU floatillas at the height of the referendum), Wednesday’s fish-throwing Brexit protest was something of a damp squib. 

Nigel Farage was in attendance, as is his wont, but perhaps more significant was the presence of Scottish Tory politician Ross Thomson. 

The Aberdeen South MP might have dropped anchor and headed back to shore before the haddock-dumping began in earnest, but he had certainly proved his point. With prominent Conservatives such as Jacob Rees-Mogg joining the protest, it was clear the potential impact on Theresa May’s Government. 

In Scotland, concerns over fishing are even more pronounced. We look at why the row has taken on increased importance, and what it could mean for Scotland’s fishing industry, and politics. 

Why it has taken hold There could be any number of reasons why the row has taken hold at Westminster. Chief among them is the simple fact that for many Leave voters and campaigners, the campaign message of ‘taking back control’ was a powerful one. 

When it emerged that the UK would be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy even after the country left the EU, the anger of many Brexiteers was swift, and palpable. 

As an island nation, there is also clearly an emotional pull in backing the fishing industry. That could help explain not only the prominence of the row in the media, but also why it remains such a bug bear to prominent Leave backers. For the negotiators involved in Brexit, it must have been galling to see their discussions portrayed as a failure over a relatively small part of the agreement. 

It has been estimated since that less than a half of one per cent of the UK’s economy pertains to the fishing industry. Perhaps it is those statistics that led the Government, which has been slow to respond to the row, to understate the still powerful pull of fishing for many politicians. 

Scotland’s Catch

In Scotland, however, the economic impact of the fishing industry, while not gargantuan, are much more significant. 60 per cent of the UK’s total fish catch is caught at Scottish ports, according to a study by Edinburgh University. The value of that catch was, in 2017, estimated to be worth around £500m to the Scottish economy. 

For politicians, the fishing industry represents not only an important source of local pride in their area, and a key employer, but a sense of community. Were fishing to cease overnight, countless towns, villages, and other coastal communities would be decimated. 

The Political angle 

In Scotland, as a number of unemployed former SNP MPs could tell you, fishing communities were more inclined to back Brexit. The most pro-Brexit constituency in Scotland, which voted as a country to remain in the EU, is estimated to be Banff and Buchan. That constituency offered a stark example of how powerful a perceived lack of support for fishing communities, as a 20 per cent swing to the Conservatives in the 2017 election saw the SNP’s Eilidh Whiteford lose out to David Duguid of the Tories. 

There is, however, political danger for all parties on fishing. The Conservatives are being accused of selling communities down the river if they back the transition deal which retains the Common Fisheries Policy. For their part, the Tories accuse the SNP of wanting to remain in the EU as in independent country, and, by extension, the same Common Fisheries Policy which has caused so much consternation for fishing communities in Scotland. 

As early as 2012, Nicola Sturgeon’s party were talking up the potential influence that an independent Scotland could have on the CFP. Whether independence, Brexit, or even trade, fishing casts an outsize shadow on politics relative to its economic impact. As a potential political minefield, this current row could yet rumble on and on.

Source : The Scotsman

Agenda: How Paisley is building on the legacy of the 2021 bid

The competition for UK City of Culture 2021 may be over, but Paisley and Renfrewshire is still striving ahead with plans to transform its future using its remarkable cultural heritage and be a top visitor destination in Scotland.
Throughout the bid journey the town and surrounding area, supported by friends around the globe, championed the ambition that Paisley could transform its reputation, grow its creative economy and take its place as a centre of cultural excellence. Undeterred and through the bid legacy we are pushing ahead with achieving this vision – one that was developed through conversations with more than 34,000 local people.

An additional £7 million investment has been committed to deliver events, cultural programming, and grow Renfrewshire’s creative economy over the next four years.
Around 20 new events and projects will be developed covering new festivals and collaborations with national and international artists and national organisations, and a cultural programme delivered with, by and in local communities across the region.
The activity is underpinned by a £100 million capital investment in Paisley Museum, cultural venues and outdoor spaces, and will help to drive the economic, social and cultural step changes which were the foundation of the bid; growing a new dimension to the local economy; being recognised for cultural excellence; transforming the town’s image; lifting communities out of poverty and making the town centres vibrant cultural hubs.

We believe this shows that here in Renfrewshire, we are committed to supporting the creative sector by prioritising arts development and building cultural capacity at a time when the potential of culture and creativity to make a difference elsewhere is under pressure. Our investment in growing our cultural and creative sector includes £500,000 to top-up our existing Culture, Heritage and Events Fund and the new Organisational Development Fund which will grow and provide stability for independents over the next three years. And we will expand and grow the network of local groups and organisations delivering events of scale in Renfrewshire resulting in new, authentic and original programme content.

Major strides have already been made to continue to keep Paisley and Renfrewshire on the map as a visitor destination with the launch of a dedicated destination brand – –with everything you need to know about visiting and making Paisley and Renfrewshire home.

Having a distinctive identity through will only continue to elevate the profile of the area, drive marketing activity and support all Renfrewshire attraction and accommodation providers to attract more people to visit.

We know that events drive visitors. Through the legacy funding and the brand we will continue to deliver great events and build on our track record of bidding for and winning events such as The British Pipe Band Championships, The Scottish Album of the Year Awards and the Royal National Mod, and will deliver an additional £5.5 million to the economy by 2022.

Our visitor plan will drive these ambitions further and support tourism business growth in the area – growing employment in tourism related industries to 7,150 and increasing visitor spend in Renfrewshire by £31m.

This all shows that we are still listening to the 34,000 voices that shaped Paisley’s bid, and how the ambition, passion and commitment to make Paisley and Renfrewshire a cultural and creative hub is very much alive and well.

Source : The Herald

Monday, 26 March 2018

Deposit-return and Scotland’s circular economy

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland shares his thoughts on Scotland’s planned deposit-return scheme for beverage containers and on the circular economy

The plastics agenda continues to gain momentum in Scotland – with fast-paced developments in recent weeks and months being met with a Scottish Government commitment to phase out non-recyclable plastics by 2030, in line with EU commitments.

Perhaps the most talked about initiative intended to change behaviours away from single-use items is Scotland’s planned deposit-return scheme for beverage containers – a measure that will target some of the most numerous and impactful materials that blight Scotland’s landscape as well as improve our recycling rates.

Improving recycling performance

A recent Zero Waste Scotland report, The Composition of Household Waste at the Kerbside, showed that on average, 60% of what goes in the non-recyclable ‘landfill’ bin in Scottish homes could have been recycled instead using existing household recycling services. That’s equivalent to more than 10 full wheelie bins per household per year.

That figure really serves to highlight the huge potential still to be realised in maximising recycling. It is despite positive progress – with the national average recycling rate having increased year-on-year to its current 45.5% and one local authority area now topping 60%.

Chinese import restrictions are bringing the importance of quality into a starker focus. Evidence shows that deposit return schemes overseas can reach a 90% recycling rate for targeted containers and material collected through deposit-return systems, which is typically of high quality and thus higher value.

It’s clear there is huge potential to capture recyclable materials with a value to the Scottish economy worth millions and accelerate Scotland’s circular economy at the same time.

Reducing litter

Scotland is recognised as a leading circular economy nation and yet, like many countries around the world, it continues to battle with items emblematic of our current throwaway culture. Around 250 million easily visible items of litter are dropped in Scotland each year.

That’s why the Scottish Government, with support from Zero Waste Scotland, is working to shift the focus away from simply clearing up litter and fly-tipping – which costs more than a million pounds of public money a week in Scotland – and towards prevention.

Deposit return has its own part to play, with the potential to reduce litter by introducing a financial incentive for consumers to do the right thing. There is also an element of attitudinal change that’s about perceived value – something you pay for as a consumer doesn’t feel like a throwaway item, as demonstrated by the 80% drop in the distribution of single-use bags after the single use carrier bag charge was introduced in Scotland in October 2014.

Next steps

Zero Waste Scotland is in the process of designing the best possible deposit-return scheme for Scotland. We’re building on our existing body of expert research and engaging with stakeholders to determine several key considerations, among them, the level of deposit, the types of container the deposit will apply to, the options for where containers are returned to and how the scheme will be managed and promoted.

A series of sector reference groups continue to help inform the process and will be followed by a public consultation period of three months later in 2018.
Once deposit return comes into effect there will then be a period of careful monitoring and evaluation to measure the impact of the scheme, as well as continuing communications with consumers and industry to ensure both remain fully engaged and help maximise the scheme’s effectiveness.

Beyond deposit return

However, Scotland’s commitment to a more circular economy goes beyond deposit return. It’s a great start, but we’re aware that to achieve a society in which products and materials are kept in use and waste is truly eliminated, we need to completely redesign the way we do things.

Extended producer responsibility is the name given to schemes where manufacturers and retailers are obligated to support the appropriate stewardship of products through their life to re-use, recycling or recovery. In Scotland, we currently have such schemes covering waste electricals, packaging, batteries and end-of-life vehicles.

The Scottish Government’s circular economy strategy, Making Things Last, marks out tyres, furniture and mattresses as waste types where a fresh approach could yield benefits – not just to the environment, but to the Scottish economy.

An approach in which things are designed to last, are easy to repair and ensures the manufacturer is responsible for the stewardship of the product, could shift the costs of managing waste and clearing up littered items from the public purse. More importantly, it could open up opportunities to create jobs and new economic value from things that would otherwise have been discarded.

Driving the circular economy

Scotland has a reputation as a leading circular economy nation, driving innovation and delivering disruptive new business models with the potential to change the way we do things for the better.

Deposit return represents a huge step forward for Scotland’s circular economy vision – with the potential to transform how people think about products and materials for years to come, as well as benefits for recycling and litter. It’s also a foundation on which to build, really transforming the way products and materials are designed, made and consumed.

These developments, deposit return among them, go entirely with the grain of Scotland being an innovative, creative and sustainable industrial nation. We are committed to action on single-use items that are emblematic of our throwaway society and proud to be pioneering measures that will make us fit for the future.

Source : Open Access Government