Friday, 29 July 2016

Scottish Government Opens Consultation on Social Security in Scotland

29/07/2016 – The Scottish Government is looking for views from across Scotland in order to shape the country’s first ever social security system.

Today the Scottish Government launched a 13 week consultation looking for views on the benefits being devolved to Scotland, as well as how they are delivered.

The process of transferring power, for the Scottish Parliament to make legislation in relation to a limited number of benefits, including disability and carers payments, passed an important milestone this month when regulations were laid at Westminster to begin the transfer.

The Scottish Government is now a step closer to bringing forward its own social security legislation, to implement these changes over a number of years.

Once fully devolved, these social security powers will account for around £2.7 billion, or 15% of the total Scottish benefit bill. The remainder of benefit spending in Scotland will remain under control of the UK Government. 

The full consultation and response options can be accessed at the following link:


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Empty Homes Annual Report: Celebrating Successes and Filling the Gaps

28/07/2016 - Kristen Hubert, Empty Homes Coordinator for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership , has written a blog on the Empty Homes Annual Report. This can be read below or on the Shelter Scotland website.


This year’s annual report from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership tells a story of expansion and consolidation.  It also highlights a number of gaps (some might say ‘opportunities’) that have yet to be filled. 
The headline is that councils reported bringing 25% more empty homes back into use this year than last year.  We’ve estimated these 697 homes would be worth £110m on the open market, so it’s a significant contribution to unlocking stagnant housing supply.
We’ve seen expansion in our own team as well with the addition of the Empty Homes Advice Service, a national helpline for anyone who needs help bringing their empty home back into use or anyone who wants to report a problem empty home in their neighbourhood.  In its first year, with only media coverage to promote it, we’ve had 402 unique enquiries to the line.  Calls to the advice line have driven fruitful conversations to local empty homes services and it’s brought troublesome empties to the attention of councils that otherwise might not have been.  We believe that keeping empty homes stories in the media and having a national one stop shop that people can phone is making a difference in raising the profile of empty homes work and making sure the message is getting across that there is help available.
As for consolidation we’ve seen an encouraging move towards making empty homes posts full time and permanent – something we think is crucial to future success.  Last year there were 2 permanent full time empty homes officers in Scotland (while there are many more full time officers, they are often on fixed term contracts).  At the time of writing the report there were 4 and a further 2 due to take up post this month.  This may sound like small numbers but given that there were no Empty Homes Officers at all in 2010 when the Partnership was established and there are now 17 councils with at least one Empty Homes Officer and 6 of these will now be permanent posts, this is a huge shift in capacity.  Against the background of budget cuts and council restructuring exercises it also speaks to the value for money that Empty Homes work really does achieve.  As well as contributing to housing supply and making communities safer and more pleasant to live in, empty homes work creates local jobs, recovers council tax debts and more than pays for itself in both qualitative and quantitative benefits to local areas.
As ever when we look back at the year we can also see the things that are still holding us back.  Good strides were made last year on the enforcement front.  The Scottish Government have stated they intend to legislate to introduce a Compulsory Sale Order Power for vacant land and buildings.  Such a power, which would allow local authorities to force long term empty homes on to the open market so someone else can reuse them, could unlock the ‘no hope’ cases that councils tell us they are struggling with after trying every other tool at their disposal.  Seeing this power in action is of course still a long way off and until then unfortunately Empty Homes Officers are in effect working with one hand tied behind their back as they have recourse only to the carrot and not the stick.
Another opportunity that could unlock more empty homes is to make available a wider range of financial incentives.  Currently grants and loans are available if you can make your project stack up for affordable rent or sale.  If it can’t there isn’t anything available for you.  This limits the role of a whole host of players from potential owner occupiers to small scale developers and community groups looking to tackle problem properties in their communities.
We think all these types of owners have a role to play and that bringing empty homes back into use as housing, in whatever tenure, is a positive addition to housing supply.
Of course the other gaps to be filled are those 15 councils who don’t yet have an empty homes officer.  We will continue to make the case nationally about why having a dedicated local empty homes service makes sense both economically and socially.  We will also continue to run new Empty Homes Shared Services Projects where groups of councils and other organisations are able to club together to afford the establishment of an empty homes post.  This year Glasgow City Council & Glasgow Housing Association began such a project and have been achieving great success in bringing homes back into use as affordable housing.  Dundee City Council and Angus Council also began a shared services project this year and have achieved a quick setup which has seen homes being brought back into use across the region.  So while there are still gaps to fill this year’s report also has a lot of success to be celebrated, including these two projects, and we hope to see more such success stories in the year to come.
If you’d like to get in touch with the Empty Homes Advice Service please call 0344 515 1941 or email

Economic Forecaster Predicts 'Sharp Slowdown' in Scottish Economy after Brexit

28/07/2016 - Scotland faces a sharp slowdown in growth and higher unemployment over the next few years as a direct result of the Brexit vote, a leading economic forecaster has warned.

The University of Strathclyde's Fraser of Allander Institute said a prolonged period of "economic uncertainty and financial volatility" was unavoidable.

It warned this would carry risks for investment, household incomes and jobs.

The institute has revised down growth forecasts it made before the EU vote.

It now expects growth of just 0.9% in 2016 (down by 0.5%), 0.5% in 2017 (down by 1.4%), and 0.7% in 2018 (down by 1.3%).

Its report said that while growth was likely to remain positive on an annual basis, a short "technical recession" - two consecutive quarters of falling output - was "highly possible" within the next three years.


The Fraser of Allander also forecast that Scotland's unemployment rate would rise to 6.5% this year, 7% in 2017 and 6.8% in 2018. That compares with the most recent official figure of 5.5%.

The institute also argued trade and investment prospects would be damaged by the decision to leave the EU.

It said it expected growth to slow as businesses and investors adjusted.

The report maintained that exiting the EU was "materially different" from the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, when "the global systemic effects of the crisis were much larger".

But it warned that the costs of the UK leaving the EU on Scotland's economy were "likely to be structural and long-lasting, with any benefits at best still undetermined and highly uncertain".

'Much more pessimistic'

Fraser of Allander Institute director Graeme Roy said: "Following the referendum result we predict a significant slowing in the rate of growth in the Scottish economy.

"The combination of economic and policy uncertainty, coupled with the longer-term structural consequences for trade and investment from leaving the EU, make the outlook much more pessimistic than before.

"Given Scotland's fragile economic performance over the past 18 months, the impact of the EU referendum result is exactly what the Scottish economy did not need.

"The top priority has to be retaining access to the single market which will help mitigate some of the most damaging effects on investment, trade, productivity and jobs.

"Whether or not this can be achieved without freedom of movement is highly uncertain."

A survey conducted by the Fraser of Allander earlier this month found more than 60% of Scottish firms believed Brexit would have a "negative impact" on them.

However, the institute said there was little evidence of companies cancelling investment or recruitment outright.

Source: BBC

Scottish Enterprise Supports 200+ Early Stage Companies

28/07/2016 - Scottish Enterprise has provided targeted support to 231 entrepreneurs leading early stage companies to increase their ambition, competitiveness and capacity for internationalisation.

The figure exceeds its first year target (130-180) of a three-year plan designed to provide high growth early stage companies in Scotland* with targeted training and support to give them the best chance for creating internationally competitive ventures. Over three years, Scottish Enterprise aims to assist 550-700 entrepreneurs in total.

To deliver on its objective of helping more companies in Scotland scale up and positively impact the economy, Scottish Enterprise provides tailored support aimed at different aspects of early stage company growth, from advice on commercialising ideas to growth funding and business management.

Help from Scottish Enterprise includes its High Growth Spinout and Start-Up programmes, as well as partnerships with other organisations and Scottish universities on initiatives such as the Engage Invest Exploit investor showcase.

Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spinout Programme supports the transition of pre-commercial leading-edge technologies, emerging from Scotland's universities, research institutes and NHS 
Boards, into high growth companies with secured investment. Entry criteria include a demonstrable market opportunity for the new technology, a team with a clear plan for commercialisation, a path to ownership of intellectual property rights and realistic project costs. Successful applications receive bespoke business mentoring and advice, funding and ongoing entrepreneurship training.

Recent examples of companies created through this support include Mironid, which recently completed an initial £4.3m Series A investment, and SIRAKOSS Limited, which has secured a series of patents in key international markets after its own successful Series A funding round of £3.1m.

The High Growth Start-Up programme helps growth entrepreneurs to create and develop new businesses which have the potential to achieve significant revenues (£5m) or external investment (£10m) within 5 years. It only works with businesses which meet its eligibility criteria after a rigorous assessment and evaluation of the business opportunity. It primarily focuses on companies working in the Energy, Technology and Engineering, Life Sciences and Chemicals and Digital sectors, but which often play into other sectors.

David Hunter, inventor and Managing Director of Shot Scope, a wearable golf game analytics tool, said that Scottish Enterprise support has been fundamental to his company’s successful launch of a brand new product. He said: “Without Scottish Enterprise support we wouldn’t be in the position we are today, having designed, manufactured and now launched a brand new wearable technology which will help golfers the world over improve their games.

“The support we’ve received has ranged from an initial SMART SCOTLAND grant to assistance with setting up a manufacturing facility in Scotland, guidance on business management, and an invitation to last year’s PGA Merchandise Show where we were able to introduce Shot Scope to various international markets.

“For entrepreneurs with the drive to make their ideas a reality, Scottish Enterprise can provide the advice and support at an early stage. This makes all the difference to a small company with big ambitions.”

East Coast Oil & Gas (EC-OG) operates in the oil and gas sector, having built an excellent track record in subsea intervention engineering services since 2013. EC-OG has designed and patented the Subsea Power Hub (SPH), a world-first renewable energy source. Still in its pre-commercialisation stage, it has worked closely with Scottish Enterprise to develop its commercial strategy.

Managing Director of EC-OG Richard Knox said: “The support available for start-up businesses in Scotland is tremendous, from Business Gateway through to Scottish Enterprise and various other initiatives. I’m often told by company leaders from other countries that they wish they could enjoy the same infrastructure that we have here, and I can only agree with them.

EC-OG is currently manufacturing its first prototypes of the SPH, offering it to the market in the following year, if not before.

Richard Knox continued: “Scottish Enterprise ‘got’ our concept from the beginning and provided real assistance and expertise around both oil and gas sector considerations and business development. This helped us take a step back and re-assess our business plan to make it more resilient, sustainable and ultimately more commercial.

“Having Scottish Enterprise to guide and support us has helped us to accelerate our initial timetable and expand our ambition to the point where we’re now looking at ourselves as a global business. We’ve worked hard to make our vision a reality, and we are very excited to bring this new product to market.”

Angela Scott is Chief Operating Officer of TC Biopharm which has worked with Scottish Enterprise since its inception. She said: “We approached Scottish Enterprise once we had a solid business plan for some assistance and advice on where to get funding. It responded by connecting us with the right partners and resources to get funding and find a suitable location to set-up. It also supported us with in-depth discussion and tailored advice on the best way to harness our ideas and the opportunities they present.

“In a few short years we have gone from a small founding team to 35 staff, based in cutting-edge facilities at Eurocentral, and with a very healthy pipeline of new products and commercial partnership opportunities both here and internationally. We could not have done this as effectively, or as quickly, without Scottish Enterprise’s helpful and proactive support.”

Eleanor Mitchell, High Growth Ventures Director at Scottish Enterprise said: “Companies like Shot Scope, East Coast Oil and Gas, Mironid, SIRAKOSS and TC Biopharm are perfect examples of many commercially viable, innovative and passionate companies looking to do great things in and beyond Scotland.

“It is so important to equip our early stage entrepreneurs from the beginning to think big and approach their ideas strategically, so that they have the best chance of success. By focussing entrepreneurship support at the crucial earlier stages of growth, we will help more companies develop sustainably, yet at pace, which will have a positive impact on the economy.”

Companies and entrepreneurs in Scotland in their first five years of operation which wish to explore the options in terms of mentoring and support should contact Scottish Enterprise’s general enquiries line on 0300 013 3385 or

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Nesta Report Maps Geography of Creativity in the UK

26/07/2016 - In this report, in partnership with Creative England, Nesta has used the latest data and official definitions to map the creative industries in the UK. Their goal is to provide a data resource to demonstrate the economic significance of the creative industries across the country, and inform policies to strengthen them further.

  • The creative industries are becoming more important in local economies across the UK. Between 2007 and 2014 they became more important in local business population in 9 out of every 10 locations.
  • We have identified 47 creative clusters across the UK. London and the South East are important components of the UK creative industries, but so are the North, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These clusters grew their creative employment by 28% between 2007 and 2014
  • The UK’s geography of creativity isn’t only about ‘hip creative cities’. We have also identified clusters in creative conurbations across the country.
  • Creative communities in different parts of the country are working together across cluster and administrative boundaries. The geography of the UK creative industries is an interconnected system.
Policy recommendations
  • Support the development of clusters outside of London and the South East
  • Continue efforts to share the benefits of London’s status as a global creative industries hub across the UK
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships and universities should consider what more they can do to address the strengths and weaknesses within their particular area, such as an over reliance on large firms or growing links between graduate talent pools and creative clusters
  • Networks of UK creative industries should strive to maintain their global reach.
This work contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates. 

Juan Mateos-Garcia and Hasan Bakhshi

Source and Report: Nesta UK

Monday, 25 July 2016

Survey: Many Firms in Scotland Expect to Struggle to Fill Highly-Skilled Roles

25/07/2016 - A total of 86% of businesses questioned for the CBI/Pearson education and skills survey said they were not confident about future recruitment.
A majority of companies (70%) said they believed they would need more people with leadership and management talent.

The Scottish government said it welcomed the findings and "the expected increase in job opportunities".

The survey gathered views from 186 businesses across Scotland.
It found more than half the firms (54%) had increased their links with schools or colleges.

'Education concerns'

But many businesses reported dissatisfaction with educational standards of school or college leavers - with 26% concerned by literacy and 25% unhappy with the basic numeracy displayed.

The CBI said one key concern was the planned Apprenticeship Levy, which will be charged to UK employers to fund new apprenticeships.

More than two thirds of businesses operating in Scotland (67%) said they wanted "better clarity" between the UK and devolved governments as to how the system will work across the UK's internal borders.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills, said: "Getting the skills and education system right, as the Scottish government seeks to close the attainment gap, will remain a big challenge for ministers.

"There are very positive signs throughout the country with more businesses in Scotland supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training - firms need to keep upping their game in this area.

"The recent announcement of an enterprise and skills review, coupled with the new national delivery plan for Scottish education are positive steps that show the Scottish government is alive to the challenges businesses face to recruit the right talent."

Mr Carberry said getting the Apprenticeship Levy "fit for purpose" was "a challenge for governments across the UK".

Future talent

He added: "This survey suggests it will need a genuine change of direction at UK level to give the Scottish government time to make the reforms necessary for success.

"Nine months out from the planned start date for the levy, businesses lack vital information. The new administration at Westminster needs to work closely with the Scottish government to get this right."

Jamie Hepburn, minister for employability and training, welcomed "the commitment from business to develop current and future talent".

He said: "Skills and employability is a priority for the Scottish government and we are committed to developing the skills and talents of our people to support inclusive growth through increased productivity and innovation of all of our people.

"For example, Skills Development Scotland works closely with employers to develop sectoral and regional skills assessments which can help to identify future skills requirements, informing providers about future needs."

Scottish Labour's economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie called on the Scottish government to invest in the education system to ensure that Scots were equipped for the "high skills, high wage jobs of the future".

She added: "The SNP government also need to come forward with a comprehensive labour market strategy that is developed closely with employers and trade unions to identify and address the skills gaps which businesses point to in the survey."

Source: BBC News

Innovative Companies Commit £4.7m to R&D Projects in Scotland

25/07/2016 - Two Scotland-based companies, Sciencesoft Limited and SHE Software Limited, are collectively committing over £4.7m to their R&D projects in Scotland to improve their global competitive advantage and increase revenue. The two projects are being supported by £1.9m of Scottish Enterprise R&D grants and will secure 56 jobs for Scotland.
The news comes on the same day that Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy visits both companies to recognise and endorse their investment.

Oil and gas software company, Sciencesoft Limited, is to embark on a new research and development project which it hopes will increase its revenue by over £21m on completion of the project, securing 28 jobs.

The software engineering firm based in Glasgow has received £1.5m R&D funding from Scottish Enterprise towards its £3.6m project to develop an integrated solution for chemical enhanced oil recovery (CEOR) reservoir simulation.

The project will supplement Sciencesoft’s existing software offerings with four novel products allowing engineers to build, control, simulate and analyse reservoir simulation models within a single software solution.

East Kilbride-based SHE Software Limited specialises in highly configurable cloud-based health and safety software. It receives £415,000 in R&D funding towards its £1.1m R&D project to help accelerate development of its next generation software solution, Assure 2.0 and will secure 28 jobs.

SHE’s current market is mainly SMEs and smaller corporates where those with legal or functional responsibility for operations find traditional approaches to managing health and safety are no longer adequate. SHE’s cloud-based solution is highly cost effective as it reduces the administrative burden associated with achieving and maintaining health and safety compliance.

The company’s ‘Assure’ solution is used by more than 160 organisations with half a million users worldwide. SHE expanded its presence into the Asia Pacific region in 2015 with Scottish Development International support.

Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said:“Promoting innovation is an incredibly powerful way of supporting economic growth and creating a sustainably prosperous society - through boosting productivity, improving efficiency in use of resources and potentially enabling higher wages to be afforded.

"The sheer diversity of innovation that already exists here is something to be strongly commended and I want to reiterate that the Scottish Government want to support more ambitious and innovative companies in every corner of the country.

"I am delighted to confirm today that, thanks to funding such as has been awarded to Sciencesoft and SHE Software of £1.5m and £415,000, and ongoing support from the Scottish Government's Enterprise agencies, more companies are being enabled to develop and profit from innovative new products."

Focussed on supporting higher levels of innovation activity in Scotland, Scottish Enterprise firmly believes that putting innovation at the heart of a business will lead to increased efficiency, productivity and sales as well as open up additional growth opportunities through improved competitiveness.

Jim Watson, Director of Innovation and Enterprise Services at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Increasingly the oil and gas sector needs to look outwith Scotland for growth opportunities. To do that, it needs to be globally competitive – innovation is the key.

“Together with the Energy Jobs Taskforce and Industry Leadership Group, supporting higher levels of innovation is a priority for us. That’s why in February we prioritised £10 million to help more oil and gas companies reduce the risk of investing in R&D. Sciencesoft is a great example of this type of company, already attributing 90 per cent of its turnover to international activity.

“As Scotland’s innovation agency, we want every company in every sector to embrace innovation and reap the benefits it brings. Companies like Sciencesoft and SHE Software have built a persistent and sustained culture of business innovation and it’s this approach that is keeping them ahead of their competitors. These are commercialised products that will generate revenue for the company. Both companies have ambitious growth plans and we wish them every success with their latest projects.”

Sciencesoft Director of Sales and Marketing, William Wood, said: “Our previous innovation projects, also supported with Scottish Enterprise innovation grants, resulted in technologies that are now integrated into our commercial products. We’re confident that this latest project will deliver even more business value, potentially up to £21 million in revenue for us.”

Matthew Elson, Chief Executive of SHE Software, commented: “This R&D grant means we can accelerate delivery of our R&D project by 24 months, helping us secure our market leadership and increasing our global opportunities to grow. We already operate in a number of countries throughout Europe and the Americas, and we’re keen to further expand into Asia Pacific.“

Friday, 22 July 2016

Highlands & Islands Enterprise Urges Businesses to Apply for EDGE Fund

22/07/2016 - Businesses in the Highlands and Islands are being encouraged to apply to the next round of Scottish EDGE funding and the chance to win up to £100,000 each in grants and loans.

The Scottish Government funded competition supports and encourages business growth in Scotland. The ninth round for applications opens from 1 August to 7 September.

Winners from the region in the last round included Phoenix Instinct from Nairn which received £50,000 for developing luggage solutions for wheelchair users. OTAQ from Oban was awarded £100,000 for developing an innovative seal deterrent system for fish farms. And pre-trade technology project, MIME, was awarded £10,000 for software that guides first aiders in life saving situations.

They were among 22 promising entrepreneurs from all over Scotland who pitched their businesses to an expert panel of judges.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) provides support with business applications and coaching in preparation for pitches to the judging panel.

Donna Chisholm, HIE regional head of sectors, innovation and programmes, was one of the judges in the last round. She said: “Ambitious entrepreneurship in the Highlands and Islands is not only growing, but reaching new heights. It’s this sort of initiative that strengthens our economy, boosts international trade and creates jobs. We congratulate the winners from Round 8. The standard of entries was exceptionally high and businesses from the Highlands and Islands were fantastic. It’s this sort of initiative that strengthens our economy, boosts international trade and creates jobs.  As the next round opens we encourage more entrepreneurs to apply and we are ready to help them win.”

Scottish EDGE is supported by The Scottish Government, Royal Bank of Scotland and The Hunter Foundation. Companies can register their interest at

Source: HIE

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Scottish Economic Growth Stalls in 2016

20/07/2016 - There was no growth in the Scottish economy in the first three months of this year, according to official figures.

Contractions in the construction and production industries were balanced out by a growth in services.
UK GDP grew by 0.4% over the same period.

Scottish GDP per person - which takes population changes into account - was also flat during the first quarter of 2016.

During the first three months of the year services in Scotland grew by 0.4%, while production contracted by 1.2% and construction by 1.5%.

On an annual basis, Scotland's economy grew by 0.6%, compared with UK growth of 2%.

The figures were compiled by Scotland's chief statistician.

The GDP figures were released on the same day as official data showed thatunemployment in Scotland fell by 18,000 between March and May.
A leading economic forecaster described the two sets of figures as "a mixed bag" for the Scottish economy.

Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, said growth had been "stagnant" over the first three months of the year.
"While the all-important services sectors grew, there was a sharp fall in production and construction," he said.

"Of greatest concern was the fall in manufacturing, which was down 2.6% over the three months and 5.4% over the year. This was the sharpest fall in annual manufacturing output since the 2008/09 financial crisis.

"On the plus side, revisions to the data paint a rosier picture of growth last year. The Scottish economy is now estimated to have grown in each and every quarter of 2015, with growth of 1.4% in 2015 up from the previous estimate of just +0.9%.

"Despite that, Scotland continued to lag behind the UK as a whole."

'Concerted response'

Responding to the GDP figures, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce called for "a concerted government response to Scotland's growth problems and swift clarification of the position of EU nationals working in the UK".

Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "Scotland's growth has now been at a fraction of that of the UK as a whole for a full year and there are few signs of a major improvement in sight.

"In the light of the EU referendum result, the Scottish and UK governments must take all steps necessary to support businesses at this time and help them to invest for the future and get our economy back on the path of growth."

The Federation of Small Businesses said the growth figures presented a challenge.
Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said: "These pre-referendum figures demonstrate that the Scottish economy was underperforming before the vote.

"Business surveys and feedback suggest that some investment plans and deals have been put on hold as a consequence of recent economic and political turbulence.

"As Number 10 and Bute House draw up plans to restore business confidence, they must think about community firms as well as the stock market.

"They must shelve proposals that would give business owners headaches and think about local infrastructure as well as large national projects."
In a report released last week, accountancy firm PwC downgraded its growth forecasts for Scotland's economy.

It suggested house prices were set to fall north of the border amid an economic slowdown - but a recession would be avoided.

Source: BBC

The full statistical publication can be read here:

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Call for Evidence: Scottish Government Enterprise and Skills Review

15/07/2016 - Businesses, students and others who use enterprise and skills services are being asked for their views about the support on offer.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown has issued a call for evidence as part of the end-to-end review he is leading of enterprise and skills support in Scotland.

The review aims to ensure the Scottish Government and all of its public agencies are delivering joined-up support to young people, universities, colleges and businesses in order to increase sustainable economic growth.

Mr Brown said:

“Scotland is a wealthy and productive country with a strong economy, and I want to ensure we are able to deal with the economic challenges we face – including the volatility generated by the EU referendum.

“Our enterprise and skills agencies – Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council – have a key role to play in delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy, supporting economic development and enabling every individual to achieve their potential.

“This review will establish how these agencies should work together to provide the right support to the right people at the right time. That is why it is so important that we hear about the experiences of business, learners and other users of these services, and I urge everyone with an interest to submit their views before 15 August.”

Evidence can be submitted to the review until 15 August 2016 via

Edited by EDAS. Original source: Scottish Government

Friday, 15 July 2016

Scottish Firms Fear Brexit is 'Bad for Business', Survey Suggests

15/07/2016 - Most Scottish firms believe Brexit is bad for their prospects and the economy, according to a survey by the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The economic research institute questioned 320 businesses following the vote on leaving the EU.
The survey found more than 60% of Scottish firms believe Brexit would have a "negative impact" on them.

However, the institute said there was little evidence of companies cancelling investment or recruitment outright.

The Fraser of Allander Institute, an independent research body based at the University of Strathclyde, carried out the survey between 5 July and 12 July, in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

Just over 60% of Scottish firms surveyed said they believed Brexit will have a negative impact on their business, while only 19% said it would have a positive impact. One third said the impact would be "very negative".

About 40% believe that leaving the EU could lead to a decrease in their investment and expansion plans, and 34% said that they could cut back on recruitment.

Investment 'on hold'

More than 70% of firms surveyed as part of the research had done no preparation for the UK exiting the EU.

Two-thirds of businesses said resolution of the uncertainty in the economy was a key issue in the negotiation of the UK's exit from the European Union, while 49% of firms cited access to the single market as a key issue.

However, the survey found little evidence of companies actually cancelling investment or recruitment plans.

A quarter of firms said they had made a decision to change their investment and recruitment plans, though the vast majority - 95% - said that decisions had been postponed rather than cancelled entirely.

Prof Graeme Roy, director of the institute, said: "This is the first hard survey evidence post-referendum of what businesses in Scotland are thinking and how they are responding to the unexpected EU referendum result.

"A clear majority believe that the impact - certainly in the short to medium term - will be negative. The survey offers some evidence that investment and recruitment plans may be being put on hold.

"Resolving the current political and economic uncertainty must now be the key priority. The longer the period of uncertainty continues, the more damaging the impact will be on the economy."

Source: BBC

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

More Superfast Broadband for Rural Scotland

13/07/2016 - More rural communities are next in line for a high-speed broadband boost from the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out.

Upgrades are planned to provide access to the technology to thousands of homes and businesses in small communities such as Crathes in Aberdeenshire, Balmacara in the Highlands, Blair Atholl in Perth and Kinross, Lochinver in NW Sutherland and Carsphairn in Dumfries and Galloway, with the first fibre connections due to go live this winter. Further details for each area can be found at the end of this press release.

More than 600,000 premises across the country can already connect to their fastest-ever broadband speeds through the Digital Scotland roll-out.

They include almost 50,000 premises reached by the roll-out in the last three months, many of which are in rural locations – such as Boarhills in Fife, Dallas in Moray, Schivas in Aberdeenshire, Moscow in East Ayrshire and Killin in Stirling.

The programme is delivered through two projects – led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its area and the Scottish Government in the rest of Scotland. Other funding partners include the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT, local authorities and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund.

Around 2,800 new fibre street cabinets are now live across 620 Scottish exchange areas. More than 7,500km of cable has been laid by engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business – enough to stretch all the way from Glasgow to Kathmandu in Nepal.

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said: “We are now more than half way through the roll-out of the programme and as we progress we are starting to reach very small and more remote communities. Deploying fibre to areas like this is part of the plan that will help ensure that Scotland becomes a world class digital nation by 2020.

“In the months ahead, the programme will continue to advance across the country, bringing high speed broadband to new rural communities, whilst expanding existing coverage in many places that we’ve already reached. The difference that fibre broadband makes is remarkable; whether you work from home, run a small business or are a busy family all wanting to be online at the same time – fibre broadband will make it easier and quicker.”

Coupled with commercial upgrades, more than two million premises across Scotland can now access the higher speeds. Residents need to sign up for a fibre service with their chosen provider, as upgrades aren’t automatic.

UK Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "The UK Government wants everyone in Scotland to have fast broadband, which is why we're investing more than £120m to take fibre broadband to as many parts of Scotland as possible. Thanks in part to this UK funding, more than eight out of ten Scottish homes and businesses can now get superfast broadband, and we've reached more than 600,000 premises as part of this project who would otherwise have missed out."

Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable broadband connections at speeds of up to 80Mbps** and there are many suppliers in the marketplace to choose from. It enables multiple users to go online at the same time and speeds up internet services, uploads and downloads.

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme underpins the Scottish Government’s aim for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020. It will deliver access to fibre broadband to around 95% of premises by the end of March 2018, when combined with existing commercial roll-out plans.

BT is investing £126 million in the two projects, on top of its commercial rollout.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said: “The task of bringing high-speed fibre broadband to rural Scotland is a huge technical and logistical challenge for our engineers – on a par with building a new Forth Bridge or Borders Rail Link.

“With a responsibility to deliver value for money, the programme has focused on reaching the most premises possible with the funds currently available. It’s great news that following detailed local surveys, more rural communities are being included today.

“We’ve already seen many engineering innovations in this mammoth project, and there is more to come. We’d encourage people to check regularly for updates as the new network is passing more households and business premises every day.”

Local people can check the interactive map to find out if they can get the service and further information is also available on Twitter @HIEDigital or @ScotSuperfast

Source: HIE

Monday, 4 July 2016

Downbeat FSB Confidence Figures Underlines Case for EU Answers

04/07/2016 - Scottish small business confidence was in decline in the months before the EU referendum vote, according to the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) latest study.

For the second quarter in a row, the FSB’s confidence index shows that Scottish business owners who expect trading conditions to deteriorate outnumber those who believe they will improve. FSB argues that governments in Edinburgh and London need to take action to reverse this trend.

Last week at a post-referendum business summit convened by the UK Government, FSB pressed for clarity in key areas of importance for the small business community such as access to European markets.

Now, FSB says that Scottish Government ministers may need to deploy extra advice and help for firms grappling with the consequences of Brexit. The FSB proposes a new specialist unit which would advise businesses and monitor their feedback. If it picked up on widespread problems – with, for example, business credit or staff recruitment – this unit could also propose solutions to ministers.   
Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “These figures show that small business confidence was already shaky ahead of the EU vote.  Now that the UK is set to leave, businesses need to know what it will mean for them in practice.

“While legally nothing has changed since last week, the markets in which businesses operate are already in motion. For example, currency fluctuations will have had a big impact on importers and exporters.

“FSB has pressed the UK government on areas of crucial importance for our members and the wider small business community. We’re now asking the Scottish Government to do what it can to provide clarity to business and keep a close eye on emerging issues.”

The FSB’s Scottish Small Business Confidence Index fell to -5.5 points in the second quarter of 2016, down from +28.5 points this time last year. The UK figure also dropped sharply to +4.3 points this quarter, compared to a high of +37.9 points in the second quarter of 2015.

The study also reveals a declining proportion of businesses expect profits and revenues to grow, while hiring intentions for the next quarter are very subdued. Further, while a net balance of 7% of Scottish companies expect to increase their capital expenditure over the next year, this is well down on the equivalent figure of 19% recorded at the start of 2016. 

Andy Willox continued: “As a consequence of, among other things, the decline in the oil and gas industry and well-documented pressures on our service sector, Scottish small business confidence has been very weak for the last year.  At the moment, it’s hard to see the current economic uncertainty making it easier for confidence to bounce back quickly.

“While most Scottish firms are simply getting on with business, that doesn’t mean that they are indifferent to the outcome or implications of the referendum.  It is vital that the UK Government makes it a priority to explain, at the very least, what is going to happen to our access to the £9 trillion single market and the free movement of people.”

Source: FSB Scotland