Scottish Business Buzz

Scottish Business Buzz (06.12.17)

Written by Michelle Rodger

Half of oil and gas firms are confident for the first time in four years, according to research carried out by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

49% of contractors surveyed are more optimistic about their activities in the current year, up from 38% since the spring survey.

The findings of the 27th Oil and Gas survey, conducted in partnership with the Fraser of Allander Institute and KPMG, looked at work in the six months to October 2017, asking firms about their prospects in the year ahead as well as the next three to five years in order to assess trends in exploration and production, decommissioning, renewable and unconventional oil and gas extraction activities both in the UK and international markets.

It found that a net balance of 39% continue to expect a rise in optimism in the year ahead, with almost half (48%) more confident and only 9% less confident; while a net balance of 28% of firms are forecasting an increase in the value of production-related work in the coming year.

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Scottish entrepreneur Simon Howie, best known for his Perth-based butchery business, has sold a laminates business  in a £30 million deal.

Mr Howie, who started the firm with a £23,000 inheritance from his mother, admitted to mixed emotions as he offloaded Shore Laminates and sister firm Mermaid Panels to Texas-based Wilsonart Engineered Surfaces in an all-cash deal.

Wilsonart will bolt on the firms, which make products such as shower walls, to its own laminates operations in the UK. The 74 affected staff will join the 1,450-strong Wilsonart Europe team, part of a global operation of 4,500. No changes are planned at the acquired businesses.

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Former Masterchef winner Gary Maclean has been appointed as Scotland’s first National Chef, to help take forward plans to make Scotland a Good Food Nation, not only in terms of produce but also what people buy, serve and eat.

Mr Maclean, a Senior Chef Lecturer at the City of Glasgow College, will deliver a key Programme for Government commitment to promote locally sourced, locally produced food and drink.

National Chef Gary Maclean, who won Masterchef:The Professionals in 2016, said:

“As a passionate advocate for cooking fresh, nutritious and locally sourced food, I am absolutely delighted to be appointed Scotland’s first National Chef. I’m sure my passion for education will also help to promote the benefits that Scottish produce can have on a healthy diet and will help to change our relationship with locally sourced and produced food.”

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Edinburgh was the UK’s fastest growing tech hub in 2017, according to developer platform Stack Overflow’s machine learning platform.

Edinburgh’s developer population grew 8% in the second half of 2017, bringing the total developer population to nearly 20,000, or seven developers per 100 people in the labour force.

But data scientists were the real story this year, says Stack Overflow in its Q4 Developer Ecosystem report, which takes a look at 2017’s technology trends and what’s in store for next year. The number working in Edinburgh grew 19% over the same period, a sign that Scottish institutions such as The Data Lab are succeeding in their push to drive more participation in Scotland’s burgeoning data science sector.

This chimes with Edinburgh’s growing status as a major European tech hub. According to Tech City UK’s 2017 Tech Nation report, Edinburgh is the second strongest tech hub in the UK. In 2016, it secured £159 million of investment in 2016, more than any other tech cluster outside London.

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Business for Scotland chairman Rob Aberdein has joined Walker Morris  as a Partner in the Banking Litigation Group.

Rob was recently ‘triple ranked’ in The Legal 500 for Debt Recovery and Commercial Litigation, with Top Tier Ranking for Debt Recovery in Scotland. He said: “I am delighted to be joining Walker Morris as a Partner. It is a firm I have long admired and the opportunity to help them build their financial services business was impossible to turn down.”

Louise Power, Banking Litigation Partner at Walker Morris commented: “As a firm we service clients on a national and international basis. Having someone of Rob’s calibre and renowned reputation within the Scottish market join our team is a fantastic enhancement to our offering for our financial services clients.”

A new policy foundation has announced a partnership with one of Scotland’s foremost economic institutes, the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde.

The Scottish Policy Foundation (SPF) was launched  to address the lack of funding for policy research in Scotland.

Its inaugural Advisory Council is made up of former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson; former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini; former Conservative minister Lord Dunlop; Virgin Money CEO Jayne-Anne Gadhia; cross-bencher and former Ambassador Lord Kerr; and former Labour minister Douglas Alexander.

SPF’s new partnership with Fraser of Allander will make available a macroeconomic model of the Scottish economy to think tanks and other research organisations as part of their funding support.

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About the author

Michelle Rodger

Michelle is a former national newspaper journalist who co-founded an award-winning IT business before launching Tartan Cat Communications. A social media and crowdfunding expert she manages media and communications for Business for Scotland.

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