Scottish business group makes urgent appeal with biggest ever 'state of the nation' project

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Small firms in Scotland are being encouraged to have their say after a business body today launched its biggest ever “state of the nation” survey project.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland said it would be asking small business owners north of the Border an extended series of questions to capture a “comprehensive snapshot of trading conditions and challenges across the country”. The membership organisation said its aim was to give small businesses, and the communities they represent, a voice so that “their views continue to be represented to decision makers”.

Stacey Dingwall, head of policy at FSB Scotland, said: “It has been an incredibly challenging time for businesses over the last couple years and 2023 looks like it could be even more difficult. That is why it is more important than ever to open a space up for small business owners to tell us what they are experiencing, what their challenges and ambitions are, and what effects local, national and global events are having on their businesses.

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“By getting a comprehensive view of the small business community in post-pandemic Scotland we can make sure that our policy work continues to be evidence-based and decision makers locally and nationally are aware of what their needs are. This survey is open to all small business owners, not just FSB members, so we encourage all operators to fill out the survey, have their say and ensure their voice is heard.”

The launch of an expanded survey comes after the latest figures from the FSB showed business confidence falling again in the final quarter of 2022. The group’s Small Business Index (SBI) fell to -50 points for Scotland, compared with the -45 reported for the previous quarter. That is also significantly lower than the same quarter in 2021 (-22). The equivalent UK-wide confidence figure for the closing quarter of last year was -45.8, which was also down on the previous quarter (-35.9).

The SBI also showed that almost nine out of every ten businesses (86.2 per cent) have seen a sizeable change in their business costs over the last 12 months, with increases in fuel and utilities the most common drivers. Some 42 per cent of firms expect to run below capacity over the next three months and only 32.7 per cent are expecting to grow in the next 12 months.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “Scotland’s small business community has endured an unprecedented sequence of challenges over the last two and a half years. Rising inflation, increasing energy prices, and staff shortages to name a few. The constant battle to just survive during this cost of doing business crisis means it is no surprise that confidence levels are now at their lowest on record, outside of Covid lockdowns.

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“Small business owners are a steadfast bunch and keep swimming against the tide of economic uncertainty. But they need help to keep their heads above water. It is therefore vital that governments in Holyrood and Westminster focus on support and stability by pausing the introduction of new regulations, supporting sectors most in need and reconsidering the energy cost support on offer after March.”

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