SCOTLAND has won a record number of foreign direct investment projects for a third consecutive year, with associated job numbers at the highest in a decade at more than 6,000 in 2017, a survey reveals.

And Scotland was again the top UK location in terms of the number of research and development projects from overseas players attracted in 2017, according to the annual survey from accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY).

Scotland’s 7% rise in the number of foreign direct investment (FDI) projects won last year outstripped the corresponding 6% increase for the UK as a whole in 2017, the EY survey shows.

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This meant Scotland’s share of UK FDI projects rose from 9.5% in 2016 to 9.6% last year, with EY noting this was ahead of a historical average of 9.3%.

However, as Brexit fears continued to weigh, the UK’s share of the European market for FDI slipped from 19% in 2016 to 18% last year, having been 21% in 2015. The number of inward investment projects attracted across Europe rose by 10% last year.

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The UK nevertheless retained its number-one position in Europe by number of FDI projects attracted last year, ahead of Germany and France. But Paris was named by overseas investors as the most attractive European city to invest in, overtaking London for the first time since the survey of 450 key business decision-makers began in 2004.

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Scotland’s share of the European FDI market fell from 1.8% in 2016 to 1.7% last year.

Philip Milne, corporate finance partner based at EY’s Glasgow office, said: “There has been a [European] market-share decline at a UK level, although Scotland is holding up well in a UK context.”

He highlighted the fact that overseas investors were expressing “clear concerns about Brexit”.

Commenting on the Scottish figures, Mr Milne said: “I would say I was pleasantly surprised.”

He highlighted the strength of Scotland’s universities in the context of the buoyant FDI figures.

The number of FDI projects attracted by Scotland last year was 116, up from 108 in 2016.

Scotland again emerged as the UK’s premier destination for research and development FDI. It won 22 such projects in 2017, up by 70% on 2016 and accounting for 24% of all R&D FDI attracted to the UK last year.

The total number of jobs secured as a result of FDI into Scotland rose by 104% last year to 6,374, from 3,131 in 2016, the EY report shows.

EY said this had been driven by a “shift towards more large-scale projects”. In 2017, 10 projects created 200 jobs or more. In the previous year, only six projects brought with them more than 100 jobs.

The accountancy firm declared that “positioning for Brexit” had driven a 35% increase in outbound investment by UK businesses into other European countries to a new high last year. There were 464 such outbound projects from the UK to Europe last year, up from 343 in 2016.

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The survey notes that 110 of these investments went into Germany and 79 to France, “as UK businesses appear to be accelerating their activity to position themselves for a post-Brexit environment”.

Mr Milne said: “A lot of that is financial services, logistics.”

He added this probably meant UK companies were pursuing a pre-Brexit strategy to “get a foothold into Europe for their operations”.

Mr Milne flagged a need for the UK Government to set out its approach to foreign investment and immigration, in terms of how it was going to “encourage people in business to come to the UK”.

Business services, digital and manufacturing were among the key sectors for Scotland in terms of FDI wins last year, with all three bringing significantly greater numbers of projects last year than in 2016.

Manufacturing generated 30 FDI projects last year, up 25% on 2016 and the second-highest number in the last decade.

The US remained the greatest source of FDI projects for Scotland. The number of such projects won from the US by Scotland last year was, at 36, up by 16% on 2016.

The next-biggest sources, in descending order, were Norway, France, Ireland and China, all of which also generated increased number of FDI projects for Scotland last year.

Paul Lewis, managing director of taxpayer-backed inward investment agency Scottish Development International, said: “This survey illustrates that Scotland is now firmly established as a location of choice for global investors.

“To be the number one UK location for R&D investment and the number one UK FDI location behind London generally is a tremendous achievement.”

He added: “In recent years, our inward investment activity has become more focused, targeting our resources on those areas of opportunity and companies where we see more likelihood of success, and it’s great to see that these efforts have paid off and we’re starting to make inroads in areas like digital and high-value R&D projects, and increasing investments from markets like China.”