Grant Thornton: Pandemic rattles Scottish business confidence – again

The confidence and resilience of Scottish businesses that held up well during the roller-coaster journey through 2021 is facing another dip over the impact of Covid this winter, according to Grant Thornton’s Business Outlook Tracker.

Grant Thornton: Pandemic rattles Scottish business confidence – again

The firm surveyed c.600 mid-market businesses every other month during a year that began in full lockdown and was followed by a gradual exit from restrictions up to ‘Freedom Day’ in July.

Optimism in Scotland about the UK’s overall economic prospects averaged 75% over the year, just above the UK average of 72%. The biggest dent in confidence was recorded in the final survey, conducted in late November and early December, with 20% of Scottish businesses describing themselves as ‘pessimistic’ about the future of the UK economy.

For the UK as a whole, confidence around revenue growth within businesses peaked in the summer, with 83% expressing optimism, the figure plunging minus -17 percentage points to 66% by December. Scotland started the year well above this level, with 88% of businesses confident in their future revenue growth and remained around the same level throughout the summer, but similarly saw a plunge of -22 percentage points to 66% by December for the same metric.

Views captured in the latest survey were gathered during the initial outbreak of the Omicron variant, just prior to the announcement of the UK Government’s Plan B measures. Pessimism about the ability to grow revenues was already creeping back into the Q4 figures, with 34% in the December survey unwilling to express optimism.

Andrew Howie, managing partner for Grant Thornton in Scotland, commented: “Operators in the hospitality and leisure sectors must be wondering how much more hardship they will have to face, and there will likely be calls for government support and intervention. That said, there’s not much more that the pandemic can throw at us and the massively scaled up vaccination programme will make a difference.

“Over the year, our survey demonstrates that Scottish business leaders are resilient and focused on what can be achieved, no matter how trying the circumstances. There are opportunities for Scotland to grasp, not least through investment in the industries of the future and helping businesses to scale-up in every part of the economy.”

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