AROUND 27 per cent of Scottish digital technology firms project their workforce will increase by the end of 2020, amid the coronavirus crisis, with 44% forecasting no change in staffing, a survey published today reveals.

The survey, by industry body ScotlandIS, signals the vast majority of firms forecasting shrinking staff levels expect a decrease of only between one and five employees. About one-third of firms in the sector have already furloughed staff and 30% are planning to do so in coming weeks. However, 29% have already hired new staff or are planning to do so in the near future. And only 8% have already implemented, or are planning, redundancies.

Around one-third of Scotland’s digital technology firms believe business opportunities will rise because of increased or new demands arising from the coronavirus crisis, particularly in cloud services, digital connectivity, remote-working technology, and digital health solutions.

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Scottish retail sales volumes tumbled by 1.1% quarter-on-quarter in the three months to March, with the developing Covid-19 crisis having a major impact towards the end of this period, official figures showed yesterday. This fall was less sharp than a 1.6% drop in Great Britain as a whole.

The Scottish Government said: “Many stores ceased trading from March 23 following official government guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic. These closures have had a noticeable negative effect on retail output.”

Scottish growth for 2019 was yesterday revised down from 0.8% to 0.7%. The UK as a whole grew 1.4% last year. The national accounts data confirmed the Scottish economy grew 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019. The overall UK economy stagnated over this period.

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Scottish Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures obviously predate the current coronavirus pandemic.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated yesterday that the UK economy would contract by between 5% and 10% over 2020.