Trade group issues five-point Brexit plan
Fifth of digital firms ‘would quit UK’ over EU vote
A survey published by trade group ScotlandIS revealed that 22% of respondents have thought about relocating their head office.
Places mentioned included Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and the US.
A few respondents would consider relocating to another part of the UK in the event of Scottish independence.
Two-thirds (62%) said they expected the EU vote to have a negative impact on their ability to increase sales overseas.
More than half (53%) believed it would adversely affect their ability to attract growth capital.
Scotland’s digital technologies industry generates more than £5 billion in GVA. According to KPMG’s Tech Monitor the number of tech sector enterprises in Scotland grew 43.3% between 2010 and 2015, second only to London (54.6%).
More than 84,000 people currently work in digital technologies roles across the Scottish economy.
ScotlandIS is now calling for policy makers to take action in five key areas to limit any negative impact caused by the decision to leave the European Union.
It has outlined five strategic priorities – access to markets, people, productivity, research and academia, and regulations.
Polly Purvis (pictured), the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Businesses in Scotland’s digital technologies sector are looking for decisive action that will reduce economic and political uncertainty, protecting sales and customer confidence.
“In particular, they want reassurance and certainty about the future status of EU citizens working in the UK and vice versa.
“Tackling the productivity problem head on, together with additional and accelerated investment in the communications infrastructure, innovation challenges, export initiatives, and support to prepare companies for new markets can help to rebalance the economy.
“By addressing these issues now, Scotland and the UK will be in a better position whatever the final outcome of negotiations.
“The digital technologies industry makes a significant contribution to the Scottish economy and it will become even more important in coming years due to its flexibility and international outlook.”
The five priorities demanded by ScotlandIS for the digital technologies industry are:
Markets – Continued access to the European Single Market is the ideal outcome, allowing trade to continue without barriers. Failing that, tariff free arrangements for future trade with EU countries.
People – The digital technologies industry is already facing a skills shortage and Brexit uncertainty is a serious threat. ScotlandIS is calling for a) all EU citizens currently living and working in Scotland to be granted indefinite leave to remain, and b) continued easy access to skilled EU workers in the future.
ScotlandIS says the UK must refocus efforts to ensure Scotland has enough homegrown digital professionals in the years to come. This means increased spend and commitment to digital technology skills education, both upskilling those already in the workforce and giving young people the ability to thrive in the digital world, as set out in the ICT and Digital Technology Skills Investment Plan.
Productivity – The group identifies an opportunity to counter the effects of uncertainty and stimulate the economy by making Scotland a more competitive and productive place in which to do business. ScotlandIS welcomes the First Minister’s announcement to provide an additional £100m funding boost for infrastructure projects and urges the Scottish Government to allocate part of the funding to digital connectivity projects.
Research and academia – Give universities and researchers continued access to EU research funding and talented staff and students from the EU and beyond so that they remain globally competitive. ScotlandIS says the success of the research base is essential for innovation and to ensure Scotland continues to produce cutting edge start-ups and spin out companies for the future.
Regulations – British negotiators are urged to take the requirements of digital businesses such as data hosting providers and FinTech companies into account when striking new deals for data protection and financial services.
ScotlandIS says that, in many cases, law and regulation will likely remain harmonised and believes the trick will be to identify opportunities for streamlining regulation where they exist and making the UK an attractive place to host data and conduct digital business, whilst working within that wider harmonised framework.
> ScotlandIS Brexit survey: http://www.scotlandis.com/media/4492/brexit-survey-results.pdf