Scottish Business Buzz

Scottish Business Buzz (21.03.18)

Written by Michelle Rodger

Between 12 and 16 oil and gas developments could get the go-ahead this year, unlocking investment of around £5 billion, according to a key Oil & Gas UK report launched this week.

That’s more than the new oil and gas field approvals sanctioned over the last three years combined and promises a much-needed business boost for the supply chain, reveals the Business Outlook report, which provides the most up-to-date picture of performance and future forecasts for the UK offshore oil and gas industry.

The greenfield and major brownfield developments, set to be approved this year, could yield more than 450 million barrels of oil and gas over time which the trade body says is good news underpinning the production outlook – though still falls short of the level required to sustain long-term production at current levels.

Employment is also looking more optimistic following significant job losses since the oil price slump and downturn, says the report which underlines that over 300,000 people still work in and support the sector across the UK.

More than half of companies surveyed expect employee numbers to rise this year. But some businesses are also reporting difficulties in recruiting people with certain skills and competencies, prompting a number to make refinements to trainee and apprentice schemes to try to address this.

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More than 7600 aerospace jobs in Scotland could be affected by new customs and safety changes after Brexit, sending the sector into a tailspin.

Divergence from global standards would be “utterly self-defeating”, with no trade-off between close harmonisation with the EU and access to markets beyond, according to Westminster’s cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee as it calls for a continuity pledge.

Around 114,000 people are directly employed by the industry throughout the UK, including at major employers Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Bombardier, GKN and Leonardo Helicopters.

The committee’s report concludes there are “substantial growth opportunities” outwith the EU to come, with estimates suggesting as many as 34,000 new aircraft could be delivered worldwide by 2036.

But leaving the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) could jeopardise the ability of British-based firms to capitalise on the forecast global demand, the report claims.

MPs warned a “no deal” exit from EASA would harm the industry, worth seven per cent of overall manufacturing output. Non-tariff barriers were found to be a “significant” concern to the sector, with border delays of just a few hours – triggered by Brexit – said to have the potential to reduce competitiveness.

In November the ADS trade organisation, which represents 1000 members, said extra checks at the future UK-EU border could cause costs to rise by £1.5 billion a year.

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Campaigners who want to buy a small Scottish island valued at more than £4m and populated by just five people have received a massive boost.

The campaigners, in north-west Mull, had been battling to purchase the Isle of Ulva so they could attract people to the 4500-acre island and stimulate economic activity. They have now been handed a £4.4m award that paves the way for negotiations to begin with its owner. They have just 10 weeks to push forward the sale.

The award, from the Scottish Government-funded Scottish Land Fund, comes just weeks after Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland’s Land Reform Secretary, gave the go-ahead for the North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) to purchase Ulva and the Ulva Ferry port on Mull.

The Fund, which helps communities take ownership of land and buildings, confirmed it is to hand over up to £4,415,200 to help move the potential purchase closer.

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Digital companies are showing greater confidence in hiring from outside the UK, despite ongoing concerns over a Brexit squeeze on immigrant labour.

Confidence appears to have grown in hiring from further afield with 19% planning to find new recruits mainly outside the UK, up from 9% last year.

Even so, the local marketplace is anticipated to provide the bulk of new talent with 70% expecting to recruit from within Scotland.

These were the key findings in the 13th annual Scottish Technology Industry Survey by trade body ScotlandIS.

It detected a positive mood in the sector with eight in ten of those surveyed expecting to increase employee numbers in the next 12 months, up from 66% in 2016.

More than seven in ten (73%) of those responding said they were ‘definitely’ or ‘quite likely’ to recruit graduates. This figure has stayed relatively steady over the last five years.

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A £5.39m construction contract has been awarded for the development of a new Research and Innovation Campus in Orkney,a joint venture by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Orkney Islands Council (OIC).

Work will include refurbishing, updating and extending the Old Academy and former Stromness primary school buildings as well as improving roads, paths and landscaping.

The 3.75-acre campus will support the growth of existing research and innovation activity and the expansion of companies in Orkney’s world-leading marine renewables, energy and low carbon sector. It will also attract additional research activities to Orkney, both from the commercial and academic worlds.

The Old Academy is already home to the European Marine Energy Centre, Heriot Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology, environmental consultants Aquatera and number of other businesses.

The aim is to attract more academic institutions and businesses with an interest in carrying out research projects in an island setting. This could include research linked to Orkney’s energy resources, transport needs, culture and economy.

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HSBC has revealed a yawning gender pay gap among its UK staff, with female workers earning nearly 60 per cent less than male employees.

Figures from Europe’s biggest bank showed a gap in average hourly pay of 59 per cent last year, making it one of the worst offenders in the UK banking industry.

The gulf was even more stark on bonuses alone. On this measure, bonuses awarded to male workers were 86 per cent higher than those handed out to women.

HSBC said it had fewer women in senior roles despite them accounting for 54 per cent of its UK workforce. Only 23 per cent of the bank’s top brass in the UK are women.

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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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