Scottish SMEs feel left out of the general election campaign

Business for Scotland has accused parties of ignoring the policies that could help entrepreneurs

Scottish SMEs feel left out of the general election campaign

The election is in full swing and the parties are making their final push to win people over. But one group of voters is accusing politicians of ignoring their concerns: Scottish SMEs. From more legislation to deal with late payments to protection from the Brexit fallout, Business for Scotland (BfS), the network and think tank championing Scottish companies, says there are many policies that would benefit entrepreneurs that have failed to make an appearance in the run-up to polling day.

Having consulted the organisation’s members, BfS has identified eight areas that Scottish SMEs feel Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders have failed to speak enough about. And given that BfS’s own research suggests that 67% of Scottish small businesses would grow rapidly if they didn’t have to worry about late payments, it’s hardly surprising that the issue was a top priority for them. In order to tackle this challenge and to boost business growth, the organisation hopes politicians will consider three suggested policies: increased legislation to tackle late payments, the introduction of a small business commissioner’s office for Scotland and establishing a dedicated minister for SME growth.

And keeping in mind that Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, it makes sense that Scottish SMEs would also want to protect the benefits they currently enjoy that come with EU membership. That’s why BfS’s members would have liked to have seen parties show more support for the Scottish Government’s efforts to ensure Scotland stays in the single market and customs union.

Brexit was also one of the motivations behind another policy suggestion: ensuring a steady pipeline of talent. BfS highlighted that 50% the funding for skills and employment schemes offered by Scottish councils to SMEs has come from the EU. But by leaving the union, these schemes could be under threat. To minimise the negative impact, the think tank is encouraging the UK government to incentivise employers to take on young apprentices and create a graduate business startup programme focused on retaining young talent in Scotland.

Responding to the concerns of Scottish SMEs, BfS also thinks parties missed a trick by not paying enough attention to the idea of offering firms tax credits in return for hiring young people, increasing exports, investing in research and development and reducing emissions. According to BfS, this could give the Scottish economy a £12bn bump over the next five years.

Additionally, the government could also help companies grow by slashing the bureaucracy associated with public sector procurement. According to BfS, this would make it easier for SMEs to bid for public contracts and for them to compete with big corporates on a more level playing field.

Finally, BfS reiterated the long-held opinion that the Scottish government should make business rates more competitive across Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. The organisation would’ve liked to have seen more politicians discuss how the Scottish government could create more easily-understood rates relief measures to safeguard SMEs from future high rate increases like the one seen earlier this year.

Commenting on the election, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, CEO of BfS, said: “SMEs form the backbone of Scotland’s economy and represent the bulk of Scotland’s future jobs growth potential. Big corporates are in the main part profit takers, but SMEs are the prosperity makers.”

While it’shours to go before the polls close, , we’ll have to wait and see if the Scottish SMEs get what they want.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

Share via
Copy link