Scottish firms call for support for international trade and low carbon transformation ahead of budget

Scottish firms call for support for international trade and low carbon transformation ahead of budget

Andrew Howie

More support for international trade and low carbon business strategies are two of the main asks from mid-market business leaders in Scotland, according to a survey carried out by advisory firm Grant Thornton in the days following Holyrood’s budget. 

The survey found that 48% were very optimistic about revenue growth, and 40% were at least somewhat optimistic about trading over the next six months.

Almost one in three (32%) want more government support for international trade, with 44% of businesses in the region actively planning to invest more to support global growth strategies.

A similar proportion (46%) were also very confident about their ability to mitigate the impact of Brexit, compared to just 36% of businesses in the wider UK sample.

Other key priorities included financial incentives and wider support for low carbon business strategies, with 44% of respondents calling for this, compared with just one in three across the rest of the UK.

A third of businesses (32%) cited an extension of business rates relief to be vital, as businesses in the retail, leisure, hospitality, and aviation sectors navigate ongoing uncertainty during the recovery.

Andrew Howie, managing partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP in Scotland, said: “There were no major surprises in Holyrood’s Budget last month, but instead some notable commitments which were welcomed by mid-market businesses. The pledge to support the hardest-hit sectors with extended rates relief, first by three months, and subsequently extended to a full year earlier this week, will be gratefully received by struggling businesses in these industries. The earnest is now on Rishi Sunak to follow suit with the UK budget in March.

“The optimistic sentiment reported by businesses, particularly in relation to international trade and global markets not impacted by Brexit, is welcome. It mirrors my own experience of working with some of Scotland’s most established exporters. Global demand for the array of fine goods our country produces remains strong.

“It is also reassuring to see such a large proportion of Scottish businesses prioritising low carbon ways of working. Scotland is truly setting the agenda in this vital area by hosting COP26 in Glasgow later in the year and our survey shows mid-market businesses want more government support to help them address the climate emergency too. If there are additional tranches of funding announced in the UK budget, there are two very clear areas where Scottish businesses would like Kate Forbes to focus it.”

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