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100,000 more Scottish businesses since devolution, researchers find

Scottish businesses grew 46% between 2000 and 2018, slower than the UK-wide increase of 63%, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland found.


Scottish businesses have grown 46% in the devolution era, analysis indicates (David Cheskin/PA)

Scottish businesses have grown 46% in the devolution era, analysis indicates (David Cheskin/PA)

Scottish businesses have grown 46% in the devolution era, analysis indicates (David Cheskin/PA)

The number of businesses in Scotland has grown by more than 100,000 since devolution, new analysis indicates.

Official figures suggest there were 231,535 businesses in Scotland in 2000, after the Scottish Parliament was re-convened in 1999.

This grew 46% to 338,110 by 2018, the latest statistics indicate.

Across the UK the number of businesses has grown at a faster rate in the same period, up 63% – around 2.2 million.

UK-wide there were 3,467,200 businesses in 2000, rising to 5,667,500 in 2018.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland carried out the research and urged MSPs to consider the impact of their decisions on local economies.

The campaign group highlighted Scotland’s slower population growth relative to the UK between 2000 and 2018 could partially account for the disparity in business growth rates.

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Scotland’s population grew by 7.4% during that time while the UK population rose 12.8%.

FSB Scotland said this underlines the case for a future immigration system fit for Scotland.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “There are 100,000 more Scottish businesses now than when the new Scottish Parliament first met in May 1999.

“These operators have started up in an environment where a decision made at Holyrood can have as much of an influence on a firm’s success as an announcement during the UK Budget.

“This means decision-makers in Holyrood have to combine their ambitions for the country with an understanding of how their proposals will work in the real economy.

“While UK-wide business growth figures are disproportionately influenced by London and the South East, Scotland should aspire to drive up both start-up and business survival rates.

“Building the vibrant and successful Scotland we all want to see requires a flourishing private sector.

“But to grow our business community, we need a steady stream of people prepared to set up on their own.”

He added: “FSB research shows that migrants boost Scotland’s business start-up rate, while immigrant business owners alone deliver a £13 billion annual contribution to our economy.

“And we know that some of our most important industries are reliant upon talent and labour from outside of Scotland. That’s why we need to develop an immigration policy which meets Scottish small businesses’ needs.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “Overall Scotland’s economy is continuing to perform well, with further growth and a high employment rate.

“Scottish Government support for small business has seen Scotland recognised as the fifth most supportive business environment in the world – ahead of all other parts of the UK.”

He said initiatives such as the Scottish Growth Scheme and Building Scotland Fund has boosted finance access for small businesses.

He repeated calls for Scotland to have the power to create its own “tailor made migration policy that enables our businesses, communities and public services to thrive”.