MORE than three-quarters of Scottish businesses have said they fear Scotland risks being left behind the European Union and emerging economies because of a critical lack of skills.

The concern has been highlighted in a study by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and British Council Scotland, which suggests young people in Scotland lack the finance and language skills needed to work abroad.

The report found "soft skills" are highly prized, with business, education and young people placing strong emphasis on the ability to work well with people in other parts of the world.

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And it called for business and education to work more closely together to tackle the apparent skills shortages.

Lloyd Anderson, director of British Council Scotland, said: "It is encouraging that educational institutions and businesses alike agree that opportunities to spend time abroad are important, although young people say they are constrained by finances and the ability to speak foreign languages.

"We hope this report will be a starting point for a new set of discussions on how we better prepare our young people and how we can make the take-up of these skills more accessible to all."

SCDI's Iain McTaggart said the "acceleration of global influences on Scotland's economy means that we all need to enhance our skills in order to compete".

He added: "The positive news is that the business and education sectors appear eager to collaborate in maximising the potential of our skills base to meet the global opportunities."