RUSSELL BORTHWICK

It’s clear that small and medium-sized firms play an absolutely critical role in the Scottish economy. Looking at the numbers, businesses with under 250 employees account for 55% of employment in Scotland, and around 40% of total turnover.

These firms also make up the vast majority of the business base in Scotland, with fewer than 1% of firms operating in Scotland with over 250 employees, according to Scottish Government data.

Alongside their critical role in the Scottish economy, we also know that the current environment of heightened uncertainty is bringing even more difficulty to the already herculean task of trying to build a successful small business.

Chamber data shows that SMEs are facing some real challenges across the business environment. As just one example, our recent UK-wide Brexit survey, of which 94% of respondents were SMEs, illustrates that a number of businesses are weighing some really difficult decisions right now.

In the event of a no-deal exit, over a fifth of firms are poised to reduce investment or recruitment plans, with around 18% considering moving parts of their business overseas to mitigate the disruption which would follow a no-deal exit. This was also reflected in the most recent Quarterly Economic Survey from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, which has showcased that business are ‘treading water’ and restraining investment as they wait for the outcome of the Brexit process.

As a voice for the SME community, our role as Chambers in this uncertain environment is two-fold. Firstly, to relentlessly push for clarity around events such as Brexit, whether that’s nationally through our No Deal Dashboard, highlighting areas of concern to Government, or in the North-east through our regular roundtable events with Ministers, providing members with the opportunities to directly raise their concerns.

Secondly, and perhaps much more critically, is the key task of keeping our respective Governments focused on the challenges of business regardless of the political environment we find ourselves in.

This focus on issues will be of utmost importance in the coming months. Regardless of how the Brexit process ends, in such uncertain times it’s even more important for government to focus on issues at home and drive forward business investment.

Let’s hope that whatever happens, we can push past the uncertainty and unleash the potential of our fantastic small businesses.

Russell Borthwick is chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.