SMEs playing a pivotal role in Scotland

  • Nicola Sturgeon
    The Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland

    "Small and medium-sized enterprises play a pivotal role in Scotland’s economy, with 348,000 operating in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs"

Commentary by The Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland

The Scottish companies featured in this publication are excellent examples of how innovative businesses are across the full breadth of sectors, and across the country.

Small and medium-sized enterprises play a pivotal role in Scotland’s economy, with 348,000 operating in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs.

The Scottish Government has consistently been committed to creating a positive and supportive business environment for all businesses to flourish in Scotland, which helped us to attract more foreign direct investment projects than any other part of the UK outside of London in 2015.

Scotland’s economic strategy sets out an over-arching framework for how we aim to achieve a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland. Our approach is based on two mutually reinforcing pillars; increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality.

Our budget proposals provide investment in key drivers of growth, such as transport, higher and further education, digital infrastructure, housing and energy. The proposals also ensure that Scotland has a highly competitive business rates regime.

We are in a position where the fundamentals of Scotland’s economy remain strong, with GDP continuing to grow over the past year and 40,000 more people in employment than before the recession.

Despite Scotland overwhelmingly rejecting Brexit, the potential economic damage from leaving the EU – and especially from the hard Brexit now promoted by the UK Government – means we must continue to act to make Scotland as competitive as possible.

Our first priority is protecting our place in Europe, and crucially our continued place in the single market – which is around eight times larger than the UK’s alone.

Our infrastructure investment plan is delivering major improvements, with projects worth almost £6 billion currently under construction.

To help small and medium-sized businesses grow and enter new markets, we will launch our £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme, where the Scottish Government shares the risk with lenders to help companies undertake investment. This will offer guarantees to young businesses – which would otherwise be unable to secure sufficient capital from lenders – to meet their full growth ambitions.

We will also continue to offer a highly competitive business rates regime. In April 2017 we cut the rates poundage and expanded the Small Business Bonus Scheme – which has already saved businesses more than £1.2 billion since 2008 – so that it lifts 100,000 properties out of rates altogether. Taken together, our proposals will support jobs by delivering a fair and competitive tax environment, ensuring that Scotland’s businesses can develop and expand.

Partnership is a key element of supporting businesses in Scotland. We are working with local government partners to deliver Business Gateway, as well as with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise to ensure businesses are supported to meet their growth aspirations, invest in R&D, innovation and efficiency improvements, and help companies maximise the returns on their investment.

Such partnerships are not only within Scotland. Our international outlook is at the heart of developing new links and seeking new investment opportunities that are so important to increasing production of businesses in Scotland.

We are supporting this through our programme to develop Innovation and Investment hubs in Dublin, Brussels, London and Berlin, as well as expanding our efforts through Scottish Development International in Europe to promote our exports.

We’ve got the people, the natural resources, the research base and the international reputation to achieve greater success.