Strong signals

Scottish industry ‘upbeat’ despite challenges

Paul Sheerin
Paul Sheerin: good mix

Scotland’s industrial companies have delivered a “surprisingly upbeat picture”  as they posted a seventh consecutive quarter of positive order intake and output volume.

Trade body Scottish Engineering said order intake for the fourth quarter remained positive albeit at a slightly reduced level than recent periods. Output volume also remained positive from the last quarter at the same rate of increase.

“Optimism within the industry remains positive in most sectors notwithstanding the challenges of increasing prices, most notably the increase in energy prices,” it said.

Forecasts remain positive for all company sizes with a forecast 20% increase in orders driven by UK business, and output volume matching this. Exports remain a concern as this shows a flat quarter on quarter despite domestic growth.

Paul Sheerin, chief executive, admitted being “puzzled” by the data at such a difficult time, but attributed the positivity to Scotland’s broad mix of high value engineering and manufacturing, demand within the oil and gas sector, its resurgent aerospace and growing space sectors, and a strong share of defence projects.

Precision engineering, which has a high energy sector content, reports a 38% increase in order intake, a 50% increase in output volume, and a 50% increase in forecast output volume for the coming three months.

“Times may be tough, and we may not yet be at the bottom of that curve, but there is a lot to be proud of – and optimistic for – in that mix of excellence,” he added.

Nonetheless, Mr Sheerin pointed to significant challenges remaining for the sector.

He said a “ticking clock” is counting down to the end of the current support package to help firms tackle rising energy costs, and difficulties in finding, recruiting and retaining skilled staff.

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