By Scott Wright

A GLASGOW-based provider of loans to small firms and start-ups has declared there is no evidence of any slowdown in the number of new companies setting up in Scotland, despite the backdrop of political uncertainty.

DSL Business Finance, which was established 25 years ago, provides loans of up to £50,000 to support firms in the early stages of their development.

Executive director Stuart Yuill, who joined DSL after a career in mainstream banking, declared its pipeline of business leads remains steady, despite the heightened political uncertainty now given an added dimension by the forthcoming General Election.

Mr Yuill, formerly of Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank, said: “We have been on an exponential growth curve in terms of funds out the door over the last three years. Undoubtedly the demand is there. There is no evidence that we can see right now of any great slow up.”

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DSL, a not-for-profit organisation, has lent £8.7 million to around 500 organisations in the last three years, with the funding helping to create more than 600 jobs, while maintaining a further 792. It steps in where mainstream banks often do not tread, partly because they do not like the risks start-ups present.

Mr Yuill said: “We take a slightly different view. Security is not always required. [Taking] a stake is not always required. And rather than a credit score, we look at behaviour. We accept that things happen in life. Businesses can fail for a whole load of reasons, but it does not mean a person becomes a bad risk overnight.”

With an average loan size of nearly £20,000, DSL manages the Scottish Microfinance Fund, on behalf of the Scottish Government, and funds from the Start-Up Loans Company. It also lends under an Enterprise Finance Guarantee licence from the British Business Bank, and from its own funds.

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Mr Yuill describes its portfolio as “widespread”, with property development the only major sector it does not lend to. He said: “Our pipeline is probably level. I wouldn’t say it is racing ahead right now, but nor is it going backwards.

“It has probably plateaued a little maybe in the last two or three months, but it is not something I am terribly alarmed about at this point. There is still plenty of people out there looking to do things.”

Turning to Brexit, Mr Yuill said some entrepreneurs have now “gone beyond the politics” in terms of their outlook.

He said: “People in Scotland are quite a determined bunch. If they get an idea or a concept and they want to make it happen, they are quite resilient at making that happen.”

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While a report commissioned by Royal Bank of Scotland, published this week, found female entrepreneurs are less likely to seek external finance than men, Mr Yuill said nearly half of the loans provided by DSL are to women. He said: “The truth of the matter is, generally, ladies have a slightly different attitude to risk than men.

“The priorities are a little bit different. But, in the start-up and growing business space, over 40% of the lending we do is to women.

“We are very clear that, yes, the attitude might be different, but it does not mean the idea is not do-able.”