SCOTTISH business confidence has risen at its fastest pace since at least 2003, as turnover and profits climb, a survey shows.

The survey, published today by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and accountancy firm Grant Thornton, showed a business confidence score of +38 for Scotland. This score measures the degree to which respondents are more or less confident about the economic prospects facing their businesses over the coming year, compared with the previous 12 months.

The +38 score for Scottish business confidence was the highest recorded north of the Border since the survey began in 2003. It was slightly ahead of a score of +37.2 for the UK as a whole, which was also a record.

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According to the survey, gross profits and turnover of Scottish businesses rose markedly in the latest 12 months, and these high growth rates were expected to continue over the coming year. This improvement was associated with a rise in customer demand.

Scottish businesses reported headcounts had risen by 3.4% and salaries had increased by 3% over the past 12 months. They anticipated salary growth would continue over the coming year, as competition for labour intensified.

The telephone survey was conducted between October 20, 2013 and January 23, 2014, with 1000 accountants, including 54 in Scotland, responding.

In the survey, Scottish businesses signalled greater willingness to invest. They also indicated that access to capital had become easier.

ICAEW Scotland president Paul Adderley said: "It's hugely encouraging to see such high levels of confidence here in Scotland. In a quarter when the UK average reached a record level, for the Scottish score to be even marginally above that is very positive news."