SMALL businesses in Scotland could invest more than £5.3 billion in the UK economy during the next 12 months, Clydesdale Bank has projected.

This forecast investment figure is based on a survey published today by Glasgow-based Clydesdale, which indicates that 82 per cent of the roughly 326,000-strong population of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland are poised to make investments. The survey puts new equipment, staff training and increased marketing top of the investment priority list.

Clydesdale's research shows that 61 per cent of small business owners and senior decision-makers in Scotland believe the UK economy will grow in the next 12 months.

The bank said that its research suggested each small business, on average, planned to invest five per cent of its turnover.

Clydesdale added that this equated to around £16,300 per small business, according to the latest official statistics of Scotland's SME population from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

However, the survey also identified continuing barriers to growth for SMEs, including the availability of funding for investment.

Nearly one in three SMEs believed identifying new customers and markets would be their greatest challenge, while 29 per cent felt that a lack of available finance could be restricting investment intentions.

Alastair Christmas, regional director for business and private banking at Clydesdale in the west of Scotland, said: "Changes in economic conditions will be felt more acutely by smaller businesses, but they are also quicker to adapt and take decisions to invest in growth opportunities such as taking on more staff, buying new equipment or developing new products and services.

"Our research suggests that small businesses feel favourable economic conditions are providing them with the confidence to invest and exploit growth opportunities."

Mr Christmas added: "More people are employed by smaller businesses than any other sector of the economy, so a thriving SME community is vital to wider economic growth.

"Small business owners need to feel confident that the investment they make in their businesses will generate a return and be the catalyst for further growth."

The research has been published just ahead of Clydesdale's third Business Week, which will include more than 250 events around the UK.

This week of events and seminars, running from November 10 to November 14, will cover topics including sharing sector expertise and best practice, supporting entrepreneurialism, customer service, exporting, and buying and selling a business.