The number of Scottish corporate insolvencies last year was down 27% on 2012, even though the fourth-quarter figure was higher, according to an analysis published yesterday by accountancy firm KPMG.
The number of company liquidation, receivership, and administration appointments totalled 855 in 2013, KPMG said. This was down from 1167 in 2012, and the lowest figure since 2008, when there were 803 corporate insolvencies.
KPMG's figure for corporate insolvencies in 2013 comprises 730 liquidation, and a total of 125 administration and receivership appointments.
The accountancy firm said there were 243 corporate insolvencies in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 3% on the same period of 2012.
While the fourth-quarter figures appear to highlight the continuing challenges facing many companies, with UK economic output still below its peak ahead of the Great Recession of 2008/09, the drop in corporate insolvencies over 2013 as a whole will raise hopes that the worst might be over.
Blair Nimmo, head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland, said: "As we enter 2014, these figures continue to show a slowing in the level of corporate insolvencies. For the first time since the start of the economic downturn, the annual number of business failures in Scotland is no longer in the thousands, which is another positive signal for the Scottish economy.
"Despite a marginal year-on-year increase in the final quarter of 2013, the overall trend suggests a healthier environment as we enter recovery and there is no doubt we are seeing fewer businesses experiencing severe financial difficulties."
He added: "Businesses which have been through a restructuring process may be starting to feel more confident about their future prospects, while those which have carefully managed costs and cash during the past five years should be particularly well placed to pursue growth in the year ahead."
However, while citing his belief that most companies were feeling more optimistic about the future than they had for some time, Mr Nimmo also cited continuing difficulties for companies in accessing finance.
He said: "Our debt advisory practice remains busy with both large and small companies who are still struggling to access finance, so it may be too soon to suggest this fall in failures signals a return to growth for all businesses."