Scottish businesses resilient in the face of global challenges

Scottish businesses resilient in the face of global challenges

The last 12 months have been challenging for Scotland's business community. Uncertainty in the oil and gas sector was the major narrative of 2015, with inevitable consequences for economic confidence.

But, Grant Thornton's annual Global Economy report has just been published and it offers some reassurance about the resilience and dynamism of the Scottish business community. We spoke to thousands of companies across the world, including Scotland, to give us a global picture of what lies ahead and, in a context of political and economic uncertainty, it was largely positive.

Almost half of Scottish respondents told us they plan to increase headcount in the coming months. That is substantially higher than the EU average of 30%. Meanwhile,  more than a third plan to increase salaries this year by more than inflation. On business growth, 58% told us they intent to expand within the domestic market. Only 8% are looking overseas for growth, which is disappointingly low, but unsurprising in the current climate.

What lies behind those welcome plans for growth is a confidence among our respondents that conditions will improve this year. 68% told us they believed their turnover would rise while 56% were confident profitability would go up.

The uncertainty that plagued 2015 continues to hover over Scotland. The oil and gas price remains stubbornly low and there are signs that this could continue throughout the year as OPEC remains split over what action to take, and sanctions are eased on Iran, prompting it to increase production.

Our research suggests that an increasingly globalised Scottish market are cautious around the risks that trading in an international environment can carry. Despite these challenges, agile, dynamic Scottish businesses committed to international expansion  can adapt to seek out the opportunities that this ever changing global landscape will present. 

Debbie Mayor is associate director, advisory at Grant Thornton and leads the firm's international group in Scotland.