Scottish Business Buzz

Scottish Business Buzz (16.05.18)

Written by Michelle Rodger

The value of Robert Burns to the Scottish economy is to be assessed by a leading Scottish academic.

Professor Murray Pittock of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at Glasgow University will assess how the ‘worldwide fascination’ with the bard is supporting business and jobs

It will also look at the potential for Robert Burns to further support regional growth in hotels, restaurants, food and drink industries and memorabilia.

The study is believed to be a world first in carrying out a thorough assessment of the economic value of a iconic figure.

Professor Pittock, pro-vice principal at the university, said: “Tourism and food and drink are two of the three largest industries in Scotland, which in their turn reflect a highly visible national Scottish brand in the global marketplace, a brand which owes an enormous debt to Scotland’s 18th and 19th century history.

“We need to understand the relationship between our culture and our economy more fully in order to maximise our already world-leading position.”

Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers.

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A new partnership between a private sector led economic development company and a leading tech incubator has been launched in Aberdeen.

Opportunity North East (ONE) and CodeBase are targeting digital company start up and growth in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire with new investment and focus on entrepreneurial growth.

ONE CodeBase aims to capitalise on the specific opportunities to support growth in the industrial digital space and create businesses of scale with international aspirations, which provide transformational digital solutions for corporates within major industry sectors including oil, gas and energy, food, drink and agriculture and life sciences.

ONE CodeBase is CodeBase’s first move north from its existing locations in Edinburgh and Stirling. The initiative, led by the ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship (ONE D&E) sector board, marks the start of ONE’s investment to build digital capacity and capability in North East Scotland as part of the wider regional economic renaissance agenda, focused on strengthening and diversifying the economy.

ONE D&E plan to invest up to £1.5 million this year in digital company growth in the region including the creation of a hub for tech business incubation, acceleration and entrepreneurship growth. Up to £1 million will be available every year after that to 2026 to support its digital and entrepreneurship development agenda, with the aim of leveraging match-funding from the private and public sectors.

CodeBase is the UK’s largest early-stage digital technology incubator, having raised more than $550 million investment since 2014 and home to more than 100 of the country’s leading technology companies.

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More than half (53%) of Highlands and Islands businesses plan to take on new staff in the coming year, and most plan to recruit them from within the region, new research has revealed.

More than 1,000 firms took part in the latest quarterly business panel survey carried out by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in February.

Around three-quarters of businesses who took part said they were confident they could recruit the skills and experience they require, although they were realistic about challenges, including finding sufficient numbers of qualified and skilled candidates, wage competition, and the need to attract people with a strong work ethic.

The survey also found that four in five businesses in the Highlands and Islands are either very or fairly optimistic about their future prospects.

Larger firms with 25 or more employees were the most optimistic, while businesses in the food and drink sector tended to be more pessimistic.

Our relationship with the EU was again seen by most businesses as important. Around one in five (18%) respondents employed non-UK EU nationals, a figure that soared to 31% for tourism businesses and 53% for firms with 25 or more employees.

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A “crucial” review of the skills requirements for the UK oil and gas sector has been produced, which says 40,000 jobs need to be recruited.

The review, produced by Skills body Opito, along with the Robert Gordon University, outlines three scenarios, with the best case indicating 130,000 jobs will be supported in 2035, if industry goals are achieved. That’s down from 170,000 at present.

However, the workforce could be as small as 65,000 if the industry fails to take action.

It states that 10,000 new roles need to be created in emerging areas, among 40,000 workers to be recruited overall for the sector.

Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of the Oil and Gas Institute at RGU, presented the findings, predicting that 80,000 people will retire or leave the sector in the lead up to 2035.

The research will help inform a new skills strategy to train the workforce for diversifying into new areas such as renewables, as well as using new technology.

The Oil and Gas Authority is aiming to improve North Sea oil recovery by three billion barrels by 2035. That, coupled with improved exports, would support the best case scenario according to the research.

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Scotland’s private sector has reported its strongest rate of expansion since last October.

The latest IHS Markit Scotland PMI found that April’s improvement was supported by a “solid inflow” of new business and stronger employment gains.

It attributed the upturn to an improving service sector, as manufacturing production fell for a third straight month.

However, it also signalled sharper rises in input costs and output prices.

The PMI, which measures monthly changes in combined manufacturing and services output, recorded a figure of 52.6 in April, up from 50.8 in March. Any figure above 50 suggests expansion.

But the report also suggested that private sector firms faced substantially higher operating expenses last month and according to anecdotal evidence, food, fuel and labour costs all increased.

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Half of small businesses in the UK are currently operating in the red, according to the latest Small Business Insights index.

Data from 250,000 SMEs showed that only 49.5 per cent of businesses were operating in positive cash flow last year.

The UK’s biggest firms were also found to be paying SMEs late, as on average 30-day invoices were paid after 46 days. The study put together by Xero said that late payments was putting a serious cash squeeze on smaller businesses.

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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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