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Survey highlights South businesses significant support for communities

In spite of continued economic challenges, the majority of South of Scotland businesses are taking positive action to support their communities. 

The findings are from the latest South of Scotland Business Panel Survey, which this time had a focus on Community Wealth Building - an approach which aims to enable more local communities and people to own, have a stake in, access and benefit from the wealth our economy generates.

The full results of the latest South of Scotland Business Panel Survey are available by clicking here.

Community Wealth Building results

The survey of 601 businesses across the South in November and December 2023 found 72% were taking actions to benefit the local community. 

Of those, 42% were providing financial support or donations to community groups or initiatives, 30% were engaging with schools, colleges or universities around career opportunities and 28% were allowing the community to use their facilities. 

In terms of spending, 66% were using or increasing their use of local suppliers, with the main reason for doing so being to support other local businesses.

A quarter of businesses rated providing Fair Work and conditions for its staff as one of their most important values, with one in four also allowing the community to use their facilities.

When asked about their priorities as a business over the next two to three years, 58% placed links with and impact on the community and profitable growth as equally important.

A further 17% felt that their impact on the local community was more important that their businesses’ profit, while 12% cited profitable growth as more important than links with the local community. 

The continued challenges facing businesses were reflected in the responses to other sections of the survey.

Optimism and Performance 

·       42% of businesses were confident in Scotland’s economic outlook, down from 48% in the last survey in May and June 2023. However, this is still higher than the 37% figure from a year ago

  •             Reflecting on the last six months, 42% of businesses said their confidence had decreased, 51% stayed the same and 7% has increased

·       Business performance remained fairly stable compared with previous surveys, with 29% reporting they had performed well, 43% stayed the same and 28% had struggled

·       Businesses performed better in sales and turnover (34% reported an increase) than in profit margins (19% reported an increase). This is a good indication of the way inflation and cost of doing business crisis has impacted profit margins.


·       The majority of businesses (83%) were taking action to make the most of growth opportunities in their local areas. The top actions were investing in new or upgraded equipment (53%), investing in technology (43%) and upskilling staff (33%).

·       Businesses are more likely to aim to increase sales within Scotland, compared to either to the rest of UK or outwith UK. 

Most immediate priorities

·       Surviving current financial challenges (42%) was the most common immediate priority for businesses, highlighting the impact of recent years

·       Other priorities were satisfying existing customer demand (38%), looking after their wellbeing (29%), making cost savings (28%) and building resilience to future financial challenges (25%).

The South of Scotland Business Panel Survey is carried out regularly throughout the year, and is undertaken by Ipsos MORI on our behalf.

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive, said:

“It is positive to find that South of Scotland businesses see sharing wealth with their communities as an important priority.

“This is demonstrated by their determination to prioritise Fair Work, support community groups, and use local suppliers. 

“This Community Wealth Building approach can lead to more, and better jobs being created, increased business growth, more community-owned assets and shorter supply chains, all providing greater resilience and supporting Net Zero ambitions.

“The survey also confirms the ongoing challenges South of Scotland businesses are facing, but reinforces their ambitions for growth. 

“SOSE is committed to working with our partners to support our business communities ambitions and help our region fulfil its potential.” 

Adam O’Sullivan of our Economic Insights Team, said:

“The South of Scotland Business Panel Survey provides a unique snapshot of current business sentiments in the region. 

“However, with each new survey we get a more detailed long-term view of how business confidence, actions and priorities have shifted over time. 

“If businesses would like to join the panel, please email businesspanel@sose.scot.”