A few more powers and a creative approach to harnessing SME growth would rebalance the business playing field away from big PLC dominance and demonstrate significant competence on economic policy.
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, founder and CEO of Business for Scotland, said:
“Scotland needs a fully inclusive SME growth strategy, aimed at creating an economic advantage through the businesses that are the foundation stones of prosperity in Scottish communities.
“The new SNP Government could appoint a Minister for SME growth, someone with expertise in services, tourism, food and drink or the creative industries, and not a trace of a global company background.
“Or create a devolved Small Business Commissioner’s office for Scotland but with a wider remit than the UK Commissioner, so the scope of the role could be far greater in terms of support for SMEs and co-ordinating business support via the various agencies – SE, SDI, Councils even Creative Scotland – and partnering with private sector incubation service. This way Scotland can have its first fully inclusive SME growth strategy aimed at creating an economic advantage through the businesses that are the foundation stones of prosperity in Scottish communities.
“One of the keys to unlocking the growth potential of SMEs is to legislate on late payment, as cash flow is the biggest detriment to growth in small companies. In a recent survey of BfS members, we learned the majority thought their turnover would increase – some by by up to 20%* – if they were paid on time.
“Big companies and councils appear to be the major culprits and the target of paying within 10 days from the Scottish Government needs to be mandated to all public sector organisations, and the business community engaged to agree a solution as soon as possible. Getting late payment sorted could lift the ceiling on SME growth and remove a major barrier to SME exporting as cash flow worries keep trade local and easy.
“Despite only controlling a limited set of economic levers, there is a major opportunity for economic prosperity waiting to be unleashed. SMEs, small to medium sized companies, make up the vast majority of Scotland’s private sector and create the majority of added value employment in Scotland. SMEs make up 99.4% of Scotland’s businesses, employing 1.2million (55.6% of all private sector employment) and representing the biggest opportunity for economic growth. But despite generating 39.4% of private sector turnover, the SME sector seems largely unappreciated in the UK. Big business dominates policy and political discussions despite the growing detachment of big business from the communities they operate in, their willingness to often unnecessarily cut jobs to maximise profit and to avoid tax for the same reason.
“The SNP should also demand (once again) control over all business taxation so they can forgo the Conservative’s Corporation Tax cut and introduce a simple Corporation Tax credit system allowing companies to earn discounts through activities that drive shared prosperity, such as:
- investing in environmentally sustainable practices
- paying the real living wage
- employee engagement
- increasing exports
- spending a target percentage of turnover on applied R&D and downstream innovation
- hitting equality targets, employing young people and apprentices, and (pre legislation) prompt payment, especially to SMEs
- making big businesses earn the tax cut would increase overall tax income whilst painting Scotland competitive position versus the rest of the UK.
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