SCOTTISH businesses saw turnover growth slow from an already-weak pace in the fourth quarter, while capital investment and export volumes fell, but companies have voiced a modest increase in optimism in spite of Brexit worries, a survey shows.

Subtracting the percentage experiencing a fall from that posting a rise, a net four per cent of businesses north of the Border achieved an increase in turnover in the fourth quarter, according to the latest quarterly Scottish business monitor. A balance of 9% had reported a rise for the third quarter.

The monitor, produced by the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute with law firm Addleshaw Goddard, shows Scottish businesses overall project a continuing fall in export volumes in the first half. They also forecast stagnant capital investment. However, a net 26% expect growth in the first half of 2020.

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On Brexit, the survey notes: “Despite the [December 12] election alleviating some uncertainty, businesses appear to be exhibiting cautious behaviour as they postpone new business projects and hiring new staff.”

Graeme Roy, director of Fraser of Allander, said: “Whilst there is little evidence of a significant ‘Boris bounce’ in Scotland, the results of this post-election…monitor show some signs of a turnaround in sentiment...

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“The survey results show a shift away from firms reporting that they see the outlook as ‘weak’ to one where they are now ‘moderately optimistic’. So perhaps no cause for major celebration – particularly with many businesses reporting ongoing concerns about how the Brexit negotiations may evolve over 2020 – but a welcome finding after a challenging 2019.”

Malcolm McPherson, senior partner at Addleshaw Goddard in Scotland, said: “Firms remain uncertain of the future as EU trade negotiations loom…While expectations of...turnover appear more optimistic across all businesses, there seems to be less confidence in the level of future capital investment and export activity.”