Business

Scottish businesses expect to recover this year after a tough 2020



The proportion of companies in Scotland reporting late payments as a growing problem has increased over the last 12 months from 18% to just over a third.

This is according to the latest ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor, which showed that domestic sales and exports have seen the biggest falls since the survey in began 2004.

The chartered accountancy body polled 52 Chartered Accountants based in Scotland between 19 October and 15 January 2021, alongside more than 1,000 across the UK.

Those in Scotland reported that domestic sales fell 3.5% year-on-year, the sharpest rate of decline across the UK, while exports fell by 1.7% in the same period.

More businesses in Scotland are operating below capacity than anywhere else in the UK, the survey showed.

ICAEW found that almost one in three Scottish businesses reported being affected by transport issues.

Travel restrictions brought in to curb the spread of the virus and Brexit-related delays at ports likely contributed to these problems.

Meanwhile, employment in Scotland is forecast to rise by 1.9% this year, following the fastest decline in a decade, while profits are expected to rise by 3.9%.

Companies have forecast domestic sales and exports to increase this year, by 4.6% and 3.6% respectively.

However, conditions remain difficult for many Scottish businesses. Issues with customer demand are widespread, with just under half of businesses in the region citing it as a growing problem.

David Bond, ICAEW regional director for Scotland, said: “It is telling that Scottish businesses saw the biggest falls in domestic sales and exports since we started surveying them more than a decade ago; while business confidence is in positive territory thanks to the vaccine rollout, it demonstrates that it has been a tough year.

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“Alongside the vaccine rollout, Scottish companies tell us they expect sales, profits and employment to rise this year, which is good news for our businesses.

“We want to see the UK Budget focus on providing a bridge to sustainable and resilient economic recovery, getting people back into work, helping exporters, and greater investment in digital technology to make our businesses competitive,” he added.

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