STAFF recruitment and retention is viewed by Scottish information technology companies as their greatest challenge this year, and as a growing issue, a key survey signals.

Asked about key challenges for 2018 in the survey by industry body ScotlandIS, 45 per cent of respondents mentioned recruitment and retention of staff. This proportion was up significantly from the previous annual survey.

The industry body, led by Polly Purvis, has previously highlighted the potential impact of Brexit on immigration as a key factor in concerns among information technology companies about future access to the skilled workers they need.

The next-greatest challenges were sales and winning new business, cited by 34% of companies, and the current political situation, flagged by 17% of respondents.

The survey by ScotlandIS, which represents more than 300 software, telecoms, information technology and digital agency businesses throughout Scotland, found firms in the sector were upbeat about the prospects for their sales in the year ahead, with 86% projecting a rise.

ScotlandIS noted the current political situation had been mentioned by about 10% of respondents as a “reason for pessimism”, adding that this reflected “mostly Brexit but also concerns about the US political situation and a potential second independence referendum in Scotland”.

Scotland IS, for the first time, polled members on steps they were taking to tackle the “gender gap”. It added more than half of companies had found offering flexible work patterns had helped in recruiting female staff.