South of Scotland businesses remain confident amongst economic uncertainty

South of Scotland businesses remain confident amongst economic uncertainty

South of Scotland businesses remain confident for the year ahead, despite the ongoing economic challenges facing the region.

Almost four in five businesses and social enterprises who took part in the third South of Scotland business panel survey were optimistic for their own prospects in the next 12 months.

The survey interviews over 600 businesses across the South, tracking business confidence, performance and their approach to various key themes such as workforce, new technologies and Net Zero.

The full report is available here

Latest survey findings

The latest survey was carried out in February and March 2022 against the backdrop of increased inflation, interest rates, record fuel prices and the start of the war in Ukraine.  

Against this background, businesses and social enterprises were less confident in the economy than they were in last business panel survey in autumn 2021.

In addition, almost all businesses were concerned about rising costs, particularly the cost of fuel and energy. To help deal with these rising costs, around half of businesses were increasing their prices.

COVID-19 recovery

However, there were signs of recovery from COVID-19, with two-thirds of businesses and social enterprises operating at or above their pre-pandemic levels, in line with previous survey in autumn 2021 and more positive than the first survey held in summer 2021.

New technologies

The survey also found 71% of businesses were already using or planning to use new technologies, with low carbon the most common type of technology to be used. Cost of introducing new technology was the main barrier.

The workforce

Most businesses were experiencing workforce related challenges, in particular the tourism sector, primarily caused by lack of candidates and difficulties accessing specific skillsets.

Net Zero

Over 70% of businesses were taking action to help them move to low carbon working and 84% were taking or planning to take action to improve energy efficiency. Once again cost, as well as lack of green transport options and difficulties making premises more energy efficient were the top barriers to taking forward these actions.  

The South of Scotland survey is part of a wider rural Scotland study in partnership with the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

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

“From COVID-19 to increasing fuel prices to the impact of the Ukraine war, the last few years have witnessed unprecedented challenges for businesses in the South of Scotland.

“These issues are acknowledged in our latest South of Scotland business panel survey, which is a vital piece of work which allows SOSE and partners to fully understand how businesses and social enterprises are being impacted and how we can support them.

“Despite the challenges, the survey indicates high levels of optimism amongst our business community, which is testament to their resilience and determination.

“In addition, it is hugely encouraging to see local companies taking action around low carbon working and introducing new technologies.

“Both are key themes of both Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation and our Regional Economic Strategy, and priorities for SOSE, which can help us maximise the opportunities of the next decade to become a wellbeing economy.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of SOSE, added:

“Once again I sincerely thank the 600 businesses and social enterprises who gave up their time to take part in the South of Scotland Business Panel Survey.

“The survey highlights the continued resilience of our businesses and confident for the future, despite the various challenges being faced across all sectors.

“This survey helps SOSE and our local and national partners understand the challenges and opportunities out there and tailor our support to ensure its as relevant as possible for our businesses and social enterprises.”