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Companies take cautious approach

Small firms look internally to finance growth

Andrew EwingScottish SMEs intend to finance their growth this year with cash generated within the business as they adopt a cautious approach to political uncertainty.

While seven in ten say they are planning for growth, two thirds (65%) say they have no plans to use external finance, while just 12% said they would turn to their bank for funding and 10% would use private equity.

Just over a tenth said they would target growth through acquisition and 13% of respondents were planning to sell their business.

The figures, from accountancy and advisory firm Johnston Carmichael, will be seen as a cautionary reaction to the uncertainty over a Brexit deal, departure from the single market, and the prospect of a second independence referendum.

There may also be concerns over potential interest rate rises in the coming months.

Almost half (47%) those surveyed viewed Brexit as their biggest concern and a similar number (43%) described the prospect of a second independence referendum as a main concern.

The survey sought to identify the issues affecting SMEs in Scotland and their growth ambitions and, when asked about barriers to growth, just over three in 10 respondents identified wider economic factors such as the exchange rate and the single market, while just over 28% said the size of their marketplace could limit growth.

Recruitment is also considered an issue with a significant minority of businesses – 15% – describing finding staff as a barrier to growth.

Andrew Ewing (pictured), partner and head of corporate finance at Johnston Carmichael, said: “It’s great to see that confidence remains high in Scotland despite the uncertainty associated with Brexit and the potential of a second independence referendum.

“At the moment, we simply don’t know what Brexit will mean in terms of free trade and the movement of people within Europe, but it appears that business owners have decided to carry on regardless until such time as there is more clarity on these issues.”

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