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Uncertainty lingers

Confidence dips, though firms still plan for growth

scottish economy

Scottish firms remain cautious about prospects

Business confidence in Scotland fell in March, though firms continue to hire and plan fr growth, according to the latest Business Barometer from the Bank of Scotland.

It confirms data from the Federation of Small Businesses earlier this week showing optimism at a low ebb.

The Bank of Scotland found companies in Scotland had low confidence in business prospects. 

Similarly, economic optimism also fell, with a net balance of just 5% now saying they are more optimistic about the economy than they were three months ago.

Together, this gives an overall confidence of 12%, compared with last month’s figure of 35%. 

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Jane Clark-Hutchison, regional director for mid markets at Bank of Scotland, said: “Scottish businesses are feeling the effects of uncertainty, which is why we have seen a fall in economic confidence at the end of the quarter.

“However, this still remains in positive territory. As a result, we are still seeing businesses looking to hire and planning for growth with a sense of cautious optimism, which is encouraging considering the unsettled landscape.”

Across Scotland, a net balance of 13% of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity.

Overall confidence was highest among businesses in London, at 55%, followed by the West Midlands at 42% and the North West at 39%.

> Growth in the UK’s private sector slowed in the three months to March, according to the latest CBI Growth Indicator. 

The survey of 650 respondents across the distribution, manufacturing and service sectors, showed the balance of firms reporting a rise in output at +8%, down from +20% in the three months to February. 

The slowdown in growth was driven by the services and manufacturing sectors. Although growth in the distribution sector was broadly unchanged, retail sales volumes were flat, continuing the pattern of stagnant or falling sales volumes since October last year.

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