For the doomsayers on Scotland, there was some more material likely to have stuck in their craws this week.

There is what at times seems like a relentless narrative from some quarters that the Scottish economy is a basket case.

Of course, this talk often seems to be based on entrenched political views, including in many cases constitutional opinions.

And it appears that many of those who would paint the economy in Scotland as being in a much weaker state than that everywhere else in the UK sometimes actually believe their own propaganda.

It is not a surprising state of affairs. These are, after all, febrile political times. A general election is looming and, before we even get to that, there is quite the focus on what the next Scottish Parliament election in 2026 might bring.

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However, for people who prefer to look at the official data and survey evidence on the Scottish economy for themselves, and form a fact-based opinion on how the nation is faring relative to other parts of the UK, the sometimes furious doomsaying may be a frustration. It seems that all it takes to unleash the anger from those intent on doing Scotland down is a simple setting out of the numerical reality, with politics left firmly out of the equation.

Of course, we must bear in mind that the economic fortunes of Scotland will only diverge so much from those of the rest of the UK, in no small part because the big policy levers on this front remain firmly at Westminster. One simple and very important example of this is that Scotland cannot escape the hugely detrimental economic effects of the loss of frictionless trade with its largest export market and the ending of free movement of people between the UK and European Economic Area arising from the Tories’ hard Brexit. This example tends to aggravate the doomsayers, in some cases perhaps even more so because they know it is the simple reality of the situation.

Of course, people should assess how the levers on business and the economy that the Scottish Government does have are affecting gross domestic product and living standards north of the Border, for better or worse, to the limited extent they do have a bearing.

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However, while economic experts do this to good effect, this work tends to be drowned out by the entrenched noise from those who have either not looked at the cold economic data and survey evidence or misinterpret these because of personal political beliefs. This noise is just that - it adds nothing in terms of meaningful debate.

That makes it all the more important for those who are interested in looking at the official data and survey evidence for themselves, and reporting on it, to continue to do so diligently.

In this context, and given the noise of the doomsayers, it may come as a surprise to many that Scotland outperformed the UK as a whole in terms of growth in business activity in the private sector last month. This was revealed in Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) report published on Monday.

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Among the 12 nations and regions of the UK, Scotland was placed third in the growth stakes in March, with only London and Northern Ireland faring better.

The headline business activity index for Scotland – a seasonally adjusted measure of the month-on-month change in the combined output of the manufacturing and services sectors – rose from 52.1 in February to 53.6 in March to signal the fastest expansion in 11 months. A reading above 50 signals expansion.

Royal Bank observed: “The latest upturn across Scotland surpassed that seen for the UK as a whole, with only London and Northern Ireland recording stronger rates of growth.”

It is worth noting the survey also signals challenges for the Scottish economy.

While the services sector expanded rapidly in March, at the fastest pace since June 2022, manufacturing production fell for a ninth consecutive month and the pace of decline accelerated.

This pattern was reflected in the employment picture, with the services sector north of the Border in hiring mode but staffing falling in manufacturing in March.

However, although Scotland’s overall employment growth moderated between February and March, it was last month nevertheless the fourth-fastest among the 12 UK nations and regions, behind only Northern Ireland, south-east England, and the east of England. And employment growth in Scotland in March exceeded that in the UK as a whole.

Furthermore, employment growth in Scotland in February was the fastest among the 12 UK nations and regions. Scotland was meanwhile in second place in terms of the outstanding business index. It recorded only a marginal decline in backlogs of work. Only London registered an increase. In all other UK nations and regions, there were significant declines in backlogs of work.

Royal Bank observed: “As has been the case in each of the past four months, London was the only area of the UK to record a rise in backlogs of work. Work-in-hand fell in all other regions and nations , albeit only fractionally in Scotland, in a sign of a general lack of pressure on business capacity.”

In terms of new business growth, Scotland was in the top half of the UK nations and regions table, in sixth spot.

Overall, the PMI report certainly highlights some bright spots for the Scottish economy.

And, while it flags some challenges as well, Scotland outperformed the UK as a whole on the key measures of overall growth in private sector business activity and employment.

For anyone who genuinely wants Scotland to have a strong economy with all the benefits for living standards that brings, regardless of their constitutional views, the PMI report should provide some encouragement.

For those who would rather see Scotland fail, the nation’s outperformance on key measures in this survey might come as an annoyance.