My Column

A tough job to keep our firms open

  • Date: Monday 20th March 2023
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Scottish people have always been renowned for being incredibly hard working. Collectively, we are a country made up of people who struggle to sit still, and the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics certainly prove that.

It’s been revealed country’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level on record and, what’s more, the number of Scots aged between 16 and 64 in employment is up at 76.5 per cent - a 2 per cent jump on the same period the previous year.

It’s thought around 88,000 people north of the border were looking for work between November 2022 and January this year, representing a 0.2 per cent drop on the previous three months and a 0.7 per cent fall on the same period in 2022.

Furthermore, the figures show Scotland has a lower unemployment and higher employment rate than the rest of the UK, with just Southwest England pipping us with smallest number of people out of work across the home nations.

The statistics are certainly welcome news on the surface. However, dig a little deeper and they highlight some significant challenges facing the public and industries alike.

We all know the last twelve months have put significant pressure on households, and despite the average regular salary rising by around 6.5 per cent, the real spending power of average pay has fallen in the past year by around 2.4 per cent.

That’s causing a significant knock-on impact on several industries, not least the hospitality sector. With many households choosing to stay in rather than eat out, venues across the country are being forced to limit their opening hours and reduce the amount of time they run their kitchen service.

It just isn’t a viable way for a business to operate, but unfortunately, it’s a reality many are now facing. Alongside nightclubs, which I touched on in my column last week, overheads and running costs are higher than ever before for vendors and without cash flowing as abundantly as it once did, many eateries will be forced to close their doors for good.

Simply put, there needs to be greater support for organisations which find themselves in this position, regardless of the industry. The Scottish Government’s tactics of short-term fixes and power play politics aren’t good enough anymore - companies which are struggling need real support that will provide tangible results.

But it’s not just spending power that is causing a bleak outlook for the country’s industrial landscape. The number of job vacancies in the UK has fallen for the eighth time in a row, with the number of new jobs on offer between December and February dropping by more than 50,000 compared with the three months before.

Despite this, there are still 1.1 million job vacancies across the UK. Companies are blaming the current economic pressures for not hiring new staff, but the fundamental issue is many employers simply cannot find the right candidates to fill their roles.

Unsurprisingly the Scottish Government is pointing the finger of blame at Brexit, with the employment minister Richard Lochhead claiming Westminster has “refused to devolve powers on migration to Holyrood” and still “holds key powers over employment law”.

He has called on the UK Government to rethink its immigration policy in a bid to increase access to the international labour market, demanding a joint taskforce is established to help tackle the shortage.  

I must admit, I have to agree with him. Tapping into international talent is key to ensuring Scotland can become a global leader across industries, and the only way to do that is to make it as easy as possible for the correct candidates to get the right jobs here.

What’s evident, however, is this isn’t going to be a quick fix. Despite their being record numbers of people on the payroll and unemployment at historic lows, any action to stabilise our economy must go beyond empty words made in parliamentary statements and political jargon to produce real results for organisations that are struggling.

Our resilience as a hard-working nation will only go far enough. Without the support some businesses so desperately need, our unemployment levels will skyrocket when these premises are inevitably forced to close.   

SIDE (280)

The average person only wears 20 per cent of the clothing in their wardrobe. I know I stick to my sartorial staples and yet we continue to find ourselves buying and adding to our closets.

A report from Zero Waste Scotland claims that clothing is the most environmentally damaging type of household waste.

Only four per cent of household waste in Scotland comprises of clothing. However, throwaway clobber accounts for nearly a third of a Scottish household’s carbon impact.

The findings point towards the long supply chains involved in textile manufacture as the root cause.

Large volumes of emissions are involved at every stage of the process – growing fibres, manufacturing them into textiles, packaging and transporting.

Concerningly only 14 per cent of people say that they think about the environmental impact of the garments they buy.

While its vital to support retailers on our high streets, it’s also time that we start to shop differently and avoid needles purchases.

The onus is not only on the consumer, businesses also need to take action.

Earlier this month Scottish textile manufacturers met at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire where the focus of the day was sustainable craftsmanship and circular fashion.

Iain Laird, the chairman of the UK Fashion and Textiles trade body for Scotland, claimed that the industry needs to work more closely together as the global industry makes moves to clean up its environmental act.

More needs to be done to effect true change including reforms to land and animal management as well as the reduction of water, chemical and energy consumption.

With the industry making strides in the right direction and shoppers being mindful of their own consumption, hopefully a new greener future can be woven.


LAUGH (130)

A son carrying on in the footsteps of his father is something which should warm the heart, that’s why I was pleased to see Prince Edward pick up the mantle on one of his late father’s greatest legacies, in his first official engagement as Duke of Edinburgh.

With more than 29,000 young Scots take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in Scotland each year, Prince Edward’s first port of call was to host a group of ten young participants from Edinburgh and Falkirk, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse – the King’s official residence in Scotland.

He listened to their thoughts on things like mental health, the issues within their communities and of course the great outdoors. It’s fantastic to see this initiative continue to equip youngsters with the life skills and attributes needed to enter the workforce.


WEEP (137)

Uniqueness is just one important factor you need to leverage if you want to succeed in business. That’s why it is important to make sure the fundamentals of your brand can’t be copied or imitated.

It’s called intellectual property, and unfortunately there’s big money at stake when having to call in lawyers to help you defend it.

I felt sorry for Leith gin brand, Lind & Lime, who say their unique bottle design has been imitated three times by companies selling bottles identical to their signature product.

The company tried to defend its IP rights and bottom line but were devastated when lawyers told them they couldn’t afford it, with legal fees estimated at around £100,000.

Lawmakers need to re-examine this issue to ensure that there is better recourse for businesses that don’t have such deep pockets.




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