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FSB demands more help after EU vote

Small firms call for government unit to advise on Brexit

Andy WilloxScottish small businesses want the Scottish government to create a specialist unit to advise on the implications of the Brexit decision.

At a post-referendum business summit convened last week by the UK Government,  the FSB called for clarity over such issues as access to European markets.

Now, it says that Scottish Government ministers may need to deploy extra advice and help for firms grappling with the consequences of the decision to quit the EU.

The FSB proposes a new specialist unit which would advise businesses and monitor their feedback. It would propose solutions for ministers on issues such as business credit or staff recruitment.  

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor (pictured), said new figures showed business confidence was already shaky ahead of the EU vote. “Now that the UK is set to leave, businesses need to know what it will mean for them in practice.

“While legally nothing has changed since last week, the markets in which businesses operate are already in motion. For example, currency fluctuations will have had a big impact on importers and exporters.

“FSB has pressed the UK government on areas of crucial importance for our members and the wider small business community. We’re now asking the Scottish Government to do what it can to provide clarity to business and keep a close eye on emerging issues.”

The FSB’s Scottish Small Business Confidence Index fell to -5.5 points in the second quarter of 2016, down from +28.5 points this time last year. The UK figure also dropped sharply to +4.3 points this quarter, compared to a high of +37.9 points in the second quarter of 2015.

The study also reveals a declining proportion of businesses expect profits and revenues to grow, while hiring intentions for the next quarter are very subdued. Further, while a net balance of 7% of Scottish companies expect to increase their capital expenditure over the next year, this is well down on the equivalent figure of 19% recorded at the start of 2016. 

Mr Willox added: “As a consequence of, among other things, the decline in the oil and gas industry and well-documented pressures on our service sector, Scottish small business confidence has been very weak for the last year.  At the moment, it’s hard to see the current economic uncertainty making it easier for confidence to bounce back quickly.

“While most Scottish firms are simply getting on with business, that doesn’t mean that they are indifferent to the outcome or implications of the referendum.  It is vital that the UK Government makes it a priority to explain, at the very least, what is going to happen to our access to the £9 trillion single market and the free movement of people.”

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