Latest results of South of Scotland Business Panel Survey

Confidence, performance and Net Zero highlighted in latest business survey

The latest South of Scotland Business Panel Survey has revealed a mixed picture amongst companies across the region.

The full report is available here, alongside previous survey results.

Main findings

The survey, carried out in February and March 2023 with 611 local businesses, found confidence had increased from the previous survey, which was carried out during October and November 2022.

While improved confidence hints at early signs of a recovery, the key concerns cited by respondents included high and increasing costs (71%), ongoing economic uncertainty (32%) and lower or no profit margins (25%).

The majority of respondents (87%) were confident that they would remain viable over the next six months. However, business performance responses were mixed, with 27% saying their business had performed well, 45% saying business had been fairly steady, and 27% saying they had struggled.

To ensure viability, 45% of companies reported that they were investing in their business to maintain performance (24%) or support growth (21%). A total of 38% reported that they were taking no action, while 16% were scaling back or reducing operations.

In terms of Net Zero, 96% of businesses were taking or planning action related to the environmental impacts of their operations.

The most common actions include recycling, reusing, or re-purposing by-products (85%) and using locally sourced services and supplies (83%).

Almost 50% of business were already reducing their emissions and nearly three quarters (73%) reported that they were well informed about their responsibilities in relation to climate change legislation, compared to 25% that said they were not.

This survey is commissioned by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, three times a year.

Other key findings

Optimism and performance

  • Confidence in the economic outlook for Scotland increased on the previous survey in October/November 2022, with 46% confident, up from 37%
  • Economic confidence was higher than the previous two surveys, but still lower than levels seen 12 months ago.
  • Over the past six months, sales or turnover performance was mixed - 31% said it had increased, 29% decreased, and 39% remained the same.
  • Businesses had performed better on sales or turnover than on profit - 17% said profit had increased, 40% decreased, and 41% remained the same.
  • Half of businesses were strongly dependent on a certain time of year or times of the year, rising to 74% among tourism and 65% among food and drink businesses.
  • Among those that were dependent on certain times of year, just over half (52%) said that summer months were most crucial to them.

Financial viability

  • The majority (87%) of businesses were confident they would be viable over the next six months, while 11% were not. Confidence was up on the previous survey, when 83% were confident and 16% not.
  • The top concern for businesses over the next six months was high and increasing costs (71%).


  • The proportion of businesses importing from outside the UK has decreased since June/July 2021, from 37% to 30%.
  • The main factors influencing supply decisions were cost (75%) and quality of goods or materials (69%). More than half said supporting local businesses (56%) and speed or ease of access (51%) were important.
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of businesses were taking steps to focus more on selling within the UK instead of outside the UK. The main reasons for this change in focus were cost (31%) and challenges transporting goods and services (29%).

Net Zero

  • Almost 50% of businesses were already reducing their emissions.
  • Of those taking or planning action to reduce their emissions, 85% had resources or plans in place to support this. The most common of these was access to external advice or support (58%).
  • Two thirds (66%) of businesses were taking or planning action in relation to the energy efficiency of their premises. The most common actions were surveying premises for energy efficiency (48%).
  • The factors that businesses cited which would help lower their emissions were financial support (65%), followed by access to energy efficient equipment (58%), guidance on what changes to make and how (55%), and help to identify and access low carbon supplies (52%).

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of SOSE, said:

“It is pleasing to see confidence improving amongst businesses in the South of Scotland, following an extremely difficult winter of rising costs and inflation.

“The data around financial viability, markets and Net Zero is hugely important and we and our local and national partners will use it to ensure we provide the right support and guidance.

“While there are challenges, we believe the South of Scotland has a bright future, which SOSE is committed to supporting, as outlined in our new Five Year Plan.”

Zoe Meldrum, SOSE’s Economic Research Insights - Lead Analyst, added:

“We now have about 750 South of Scotland businesses who have agreed to become members of our business panel.

“These panel members are the first port of call to participate in the survey and provide SOSE and partners with vital first-hand information on what the current position is for businesses  operating in our region.

“Businesses taking part in the panel will not be invited to participate in all surveys and can be asked to be removed at any time.

“If businesses would like to join the panel, please email”