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Agenda: tech firms sharpen up

Congratulations to the five Scottish companies included last week in Deloitte's closely-watched and prestigious Fast 50, a list of the most dynamic tech companies in the UK measured by revenue growth.

The businesses in the Fast 50 are: M Squared Lasers; Skyscanner; Pinnacle; Reactech; and Touch Bionics. It has been a while since Scotland has had such a strong showing.

Mike McGregor, Deloitte's Edinburgh-based partner in entrepreneurial business, puts the strong Scottish showing down to strong support from Scottish Enterprise, but also the pioneering spirit of companies which are prepared to get on a plane and sell their products abroad.

He said: "Of all the [seven] regions of the UK, Scotland is behind only London and the south-east."

McGregor points out that the average rate of growth across the 50 companies is no less than 1550%, and their combined revenue is up by a staggering 38%, which only a determined pessimist would deny is a strongly positive sign that, despite the wider business environment, the cutting edge of UK tech is sharpening up fast.

FOLLOWING 10 expensive years and more relaunches than Madonna, VisitScotland.com's core booking function has been laid to rest. Disliked by Brussels bureaucrats (who thought it violated state aid), disdained by e-commerce experts for its massive footprint but poor "conversion ratio" of browsers to buyers, and increasingly bodyswerved by the industry, VS.com, and the millions spent on it, it is not a great advertisement for Scotland's responsiveness.

One accommodation provider, who gave up on the site in frustration, offers this diagnosis: "The key thing is that there was no market failure to address. Private-sector platforms do a perfectly good job. Accommodation providers didn't need taxpayers' support in this area. I'm afraid it is another example of a public service sustaining itself for its own sake, rather than because a service is required."

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