THE chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has declared he sees no “lessening of ambition” in the city’s economy, in spite of it being “buffeted from post to post” by Brexit.

Stuart Patrick highlighted the potential of Brexit to exacerbate already significant skills shortages, and the risk posed by the UK’s impending exit from the European Union to inward investment given Glasgow faced competition from the likes of Amsterdam and Dublin.

However, striking an optimistic tone about Glasgow’s prospects, Mr Patrick said: “What I don’t see is a lessening of ambition. It feels as if we have been buffeted from post to post at the moment because of Brexit but I don’t sense that everyone has decided to shut up shop and hunker down.

Loading article content

“There is a pretty robust pipeline of activity.”

He added: “Converting that pipeline of proposals into investment on the ground is what we have got to keep an eye on.”

Mr Patrick highlighted the economic contribution of innovation districts springing up in Glasgow around centres of excellence in the city, noting the importance of partnership between universities and business in this context.

He also cited the need for more Grade A office space in Glasgow. He said he would be watching closely to see whether any speculative Grade A developments got under way next year, raising the question of whether it was possible to raise finance easily for such projects.

Mr Patrick also highlighted the importance of more residential accommodation being built in the city centre. He noted a raft of student accommodation developments in Glasgow in recent years. Mr Patrick also flagged other residential developments that appeared to be aimed at young professionals who wished to live in the city centre.

He noted the importance of attracting more people to live in the city centre to the economy, flagging trends in demand for physical retail space amid technological change and also the increasing availability of upper floors of buildings that were used previously as offices.

Mr Patrick said it was “probably relatively straightforward” to attract young professionals to live in the city centre, highlighting the likes of staff working in Glasgow for employers such as information technology company Dell, JP Morgan or Barclays.

He added: “There was already a sense that was happening anyway because the younger workforce was already looking for accommodation closer to the city centre, from what we were hearing from some of the employers.”

Mr Patrick highlighted a potentially greater challenge in attracting families to live in the city centre.

He said: “The family being attracted into the city centre: almost certainly the questions are going to be around schooling - how is that going to develop? And the whole public realm – is this going to be an attractive place?”

Mr Patrick asked: “Are the right facilities there to move into family use or is that going to be too difficult to aim for?”

He also cited an opportunity to attract “empty-nesters” to live in the city, emphasising the need for “quality provision” in this regard.

Mr Patrick highlighted Glasgow’s growing technology prowess, citing the city’s expertise in key sectors including precision medicine, and quantum photonics.

He also underlined Glasgow’s strength in engineering and manufacturing, and the continuing importance of the Scotch whisky sector particularly on the export front.

Mr Patrick cited signs of a sharp rise in export activity since late August, on the back of sterling weakness in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Noting Glasgow Chambers’ work on export documentation for companies, he declared: “[In} our documentation work, I reckon we are up about one-quarter year-on-year. A lot of that is the whisky industry, but not exclusively.”

Giving a general view on the Glasgow economy, Mr Patrick said: “My overall feeling is generally positive because, when you go round looking, you find a lot.”

He highlighted healthy business start-up rates in Glasgow. He observed that the challenge was no longer around boosting the business birth rate but was rather to ensure these start-ups developed to become part of the supply base for key sectors of the economy.

Mr Patrick said: “There is an awful lot of stuff, in the new starts for example. If we were to go back to the 1990s, we were worrying about the number of new starts. We are not worrying about the new starts [now] – we are worrying about the extent to which they develop into that key sector supply base.”