The drop in confidence among accountants in Scotland about the economic prospects facing their businesses in the coming 12 months, compared with the preceding year, has occurred in spite of evidence of solid growth in overall sales volumes and exports.
The survey, published today, by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and accountancy firm Grant Thornton, also found capital investment had been growing in Scotland.
Kevin Engel, managing partner in Scotland for Grant Thornton, said: "While the latest findings are slightly concerning, they are not entirely surprising. Earlier this year, business confidence in Scotland rose to record levels, buoyed by a resurgence in economic activity. Recovery takes time and presents its own challenges, from accessing capital for growth to finding and adequately rewarding a skilled workforce."
Scottish businesses recorded a confidence score of 15.1 in the latest survey, which covers a period including some of the third quarter. The confidence score among UK businesses was 32.3.
A survey in March from ICAEW, which covered a period including some of the first quarter, had recorded a Scottish business confidence score of 38, up from 28.5 three months earlier and ahead of a reading of 37.2 for the UK as a whole.
The latest survey from ICAEW, which had 67 respondents in Scotland, signalled Scottish businesses had achieved 4.5 per cent growth in sales volumes over the last 12 months, with exports up 4.9 per cent and capital investment growing by 3.9 per cent.
ICAEW's president in Scotland, Paul Adderley, said: "Despite positivity in areas such as growth, factors such as the recently reported increase in the number of insolvencies show that, whilst there are positive signs, there is still some way to go before we fully return to where we were pre-crisis."
Keith Proudfoot, ICAEW regional director, said of the fall in business confidence: "If it has been a cracking last 12 months, even if it is a good next 12 months, it is not going to be as good as the past 12 months."
A confidence index of plus-100 in the ICAEW survey would indicate all respondents were much more confident about the economic prospects facing their businesses over the next 12 months, compared with the previous year. An index reading of minus-100 would indicate all respondents were much less confident about future prospects.