My Column

Banish January blues 2023 is open for firms

  • Date: Monday 16th January 2023
column Picture

Today boasts the ominous tile as the most depressing day of the year – Blue Monday. The day when the glow of the festive season has well and truly faded and the realisation has set in that bills are to be paid.

And with higher utility bills piling pressure onto households, it’s no wonder those post-Christmas credit card statements are met with a frown.

Many companies across Scotland will be feeling the full force of Blue Monday following last week’s announcement that the UK government is going to scale back energy bill support for businesses, after warning the current level of help is too expensive.

The new scheme limits firms to a discount on the wholesale price, rather than costs being capped as they are under the current scheme which was launched by the government last September. At that time energy prices had been driven up in the wake of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The new scheme will run until the end of March 2024. The government has set a limit on it to try and reduce how much the British taxpayer is exposed to fluctuating wholesale costs – we are all paying for it after all.  This means if the cost of gas and electricity continues to go up, uncapped, it could put real pressure on some businesses as well as schools and hospitals.

As we headed into the gloomy month of January a report from the Bank of Scotland revealed companies in Scotland had reported lower confidence in their own business prospects in December 2022. The bank’s Business Barometer polled 1,200 businesses across the country to look for early signals about Scottish and UK economic trends. However, in spite of low confidence broadly, there were also some positive signs around investment.

The report revealed the top target areas for growth that Scottish businesses are aiming for in the next six months include investing in their teams (31 percent) and entering new markets (25 percent) – which, to my mind, means that despite an especially rocky few months leading into the new year, Scottish business is looking to shore up investment plans to kick start 2023.

From the end of 2021 to the end of 2022, Scottish financial technology firms saw a 12 percent rise. That’s according to umbrella organisation, FinTech Scotland, which also said that investment figures were strong. More than £300million was spent in the sector across the year which signifies real investor confidence amongst Scottish entrepreneurs. 

During these uncertain times all businesses need access to liquidity to quite literally keep the lights, as well as to do other things like recruiting more staff. So it’s good to see the UK Government is stepping up its game for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The British Business Bank is a government-owned business development bank dedicated to making finance markets work better for smaller businesses. This summer it’s preparing to launch a £150m investment fund to support the growth of Scottish SMEs through loans of up to £2m – and equity investments of up to £5m.

Given Scotland’s unique geography in the United Kingdom, from the Highlands and Islands to the major metropolitan centres of the central belt, I think it will be really important for the fund to attempt to service that geographic spread adequately.  

A good example of how this sort of funding, direct from state backed banks, can benefit Scottish businesses was announced last week. It’s really important that businesses have access to cash. That’s why IndiNature Mill welcomed £2m of funding from the Scottish National Investment Bank. The cash allowed the Borders based business to fund capital expenditure projects and manufacture new products in its line of home insulation derived from all natural production methods.

I thought comments made by IndiNature’s chief executive and co-founder Scott Simpson summed up the benefits of this type of investment perfectly. In the case of his company, he said it was speeding up its ability to deliver healthy, low carbon products at high capacity to the market.

So, while it may be Blue Monday today, it is just a blip. Hopefully, Scottish businesses can continue to remain resilient and ride out the storm. The upward trend of investment is encouraging and should help to reinforce confidence levels and reassure businesses that there’s a brighter future ahead.



Who would have thought that Scotland would be the ‘piste’ de resistance when it comes to ski season?

I know we have good options when it comes to skiing, but it would appear that this season we’re overtaking European destinations.

With some resorts in France and Switzerland struggling to see any snow on their slopes, due to an unseasonably warm winter, thousands of skiers from across the UK are heading  in their droves to Scottish ski resorts like the Lecht Ski Centre located in Aberdeenshire.

We might not have the glamour of the French Alps, but the tourism boost to these parts of Scotland is much needed at the moment.

I noticed Peter du Pon, chairman of the Lecht Ski Company, was careful to remain cautious when he said: “We look at a 10-day forecast. In a week’s time it could disappear” and added: “We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.”

But let’s face it, we’re not renowned for heatwaves in this part of the world so I’d like to think there’s every chance our ski centres will keep getting those icy conditions they rely upon – in the short term at least.

Longer term may be a different story when we look at the big picture though.

According to the United Nations, Swiss temperatures are warming at twice the global average rate. A UN report states the mountainous ski areas have the effect of trapping heat!

Ski resorts across Europe are trying to occupy their winter tourists with other forms of leisure in the quieter months, like cable car trips for example.  So while Scots resorts are reaping the rewards now we should take a leaf out of our European neighbours’ books and consider what else can be offered at our Scottish ski destinations.




Do you ever stay at a hotel and accidently leave something there? Well, something that gave me a good laugh this week was finding out all the weird and wonderful things people have forgotten on their trips to budget hotel chain, Travelodge.

There’s everything from a 6ft Japanese temple in Glasgow, a castle made from shortbread in Stirling, and even a large glass jar labeled ‘Loch Ness fesh air’ in Inverness. 

More worrying was the fact electronic devices and business papers were among the most popular items left behind in 2022, which is bound to cause workplace confidentiality concerns.

An unnamed politician left behind a speech, and the MD of a company left behind their resignation letter – what a nightmare!

I’d suggest you always password protect your devices and double check your belongings when staying away from home, so you don’t forget more than your toothbrush next time!



Bosses at Scottish craft brew company Brewdog must be feeling light-headed after their 2021 gold can promotion fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, causing 24 carat chaos.

The promo gave beer aficionados the chance to win an alleged “solid gold” can said to be worth £15k. But some customers felt mislead when they realised it was only gold plated.

Complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority were upheld, meaning Brewdog had to pay out around £470,000 - well over double CEO James Watt’s salary.

It’s a sore read when you see that any business has to pay out that much, and Watt has admitted a ‘silly mistake’ was made.

It serves as a reminder of the golden rule – always make sure claims in your advertising are watertight and don’t risk misleading customers.




Back to column listings

Recent News

News Archive