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Scottish SMEs are gloomier about growth prospects than anywhere else in the UK – research

Leaders of small businesses in Scotland are much gloomier about the prospects of growth than anywhere else in the UK.

Research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance suggests that small firm owners here are half as confident about growth than their counterparts in London and significantly short of the UK average.

Wales ranks slightly above Scotland in the number of small firms expecting growth.

Overall in the UK 26% of small business owners predict growth in the three-months to 31 March – just a 1% change on Q3 2020 and Q4 2021 respectively.

But only 17% of owners in Scotland and 18% in Wales are are forecasting growth over the quarter.

Following a crash in small business growth forecasts during the first lockdown in March 2020 – falling from 39% to 14% overnight – the proportion of small business owners UK-wide predicting growth doubled the following quarter and has remained at

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One in seven Scottish shops empty as vacancies spike

In the fourth quarter of 2020 the Scottish vacancy rate increased to 14.4% from 14% in the third quarter – and up by 1.4% on the same point in 2019.

The latest Scottish Retail Consortium and Local Data Company figures showed that shopping centre vacancies increased to 18.2% from from 16.8% in the third quarter last year.

On the high street, vacancies remained at 13.5% in the fourth quarter.

Retail park vacancies increased to 11.9%, up from 10.4% in the third quarter, however they remain the location with by far the lowest rate.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the overall UK vacancy rate increased to 13.7%, from 13.2% during the previous quarter.

This was the 10th consecutive quarter of increasing vacancy rates, stretching back from the second quarter of 2018.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that this second successive quarterly spike in the vacancy rate

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Scottish business confidence falls again as lockdown continues

Business confidence in Scotland fell 23 points during January to -32%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

Companies reported lower confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, down 20 points to -27%. When taken alongside their views of the economy, down 25 points to -37%, this gives a headline confidence reading of -32%.

Around 1,200 businesses were surveyed earlier this month, with the overall ‘balance’ of opinion weighing the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.

The majority (65%) of firms said current Covid-19 restrictions had caused a fall in turnover, but they expected the effects of the vaccine programme to boost trading prospects for 2021, with 52% saying the rollout had made them feel more confident about the year ahead.

However, only 11% expect trading levels to return to pre-pandemic levels in the next 12 months.

When

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Covid-19 makes improving Scotland’s economy almost four times harder

Covid-19’s economic damage makes the task of improving Scotland’s economy and spreading prosperity almost four times harder.

This is according to the Centre for Cities’ annual study of the UK’s major urban areas.

The research and policy institute found that 30,900 people in Scotland’s largest cities now need to find secure, well-paid jobs to rebuild and improve the economy – compared to 8,600 last March.

Dundee is the place in Scotland facing the biggest challenge, followed closely by Glasgow.

The pandemic has also impacted many previously prosperous places, such as Edinburgh and Aberdeen, disproportionately hard.

Rank

City

Percentage reduction in unemployment to rebuild the economy

1

Dundee

4.1

2

Glasgow

4.1

3

Aberdeen

3.4

4

Edinburgh

3.0

The methodological basis for the report is rooted in official unemployment-related claimant count data.

Centre for Cities worked out how far the unemployment count would need to fall to bring less affluent cities’

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Ferries contracts ‘not a catastrophic failure’ Scottish Government Minister claims

The Scottish Government has denied that the procurement process for two ferries was a “catastrophic failure” after the build was delayed by four years and the costs almost doubled.

The claim came after one MSP described Ministers’ response as “the worst Government response to a committee report I have ever seen.”

Mike Rumbles, Liberal Democrat member of the Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee also attacked the Government for “appalling government response to the committee’s unanimous report”.

He said: “The failure to accept that there was a catastrophic failure in the procurement process suggests ministers have their hands over their eyes and their fingers in their ears.

“Meanwhile, the Government’s response criticising the committee’s report for not blaming the contractor enough suggests that complacency is well entrenched in the Scottish Government, with an almost complete lack of understanding of the reality of their mistakes from the start to the finish

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