Most Scottish businesses prepared for Brexit, survey says

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The majority of middle market businesses in Scotland are prepared for an EU-exit, according to a new YouGov survey, the Brexit Monitor, commissioned by leading audit, tax and consulting firm RSM.

The survey of more than 300 UK mid-market companies with a turnover between £30-£300m across a range of key sectors, found that over two thirds (69 per cent) of Scottish businesses who responded are prepared for the UK leaving the EU, which is one of the highest responses across Great Britain.

The majority (97 per cent) of Scottish companies reported they had taken measures in light of the decision to leave the EU, such as increasing productivity and efficiency (44 per cent); adjusting for potential import and export duties with the EU (31 per cent); increasing local recruitment (28 per cent); and expanding or preparing to expand into non-EU markets (28 per cent). Only 15 per cent said they planned to move some operations outside of the UK while 13 per cent said they had established, or would look to establish, EU subsidiaries or branches.

Almost half (49 per cent) of the Scottish respondents thought that an EU-exit would have a negative impact on the UK economy in the next five years, compared to 46 per cent taking a more positive view.

By way of comparison, 55 per cent of London businesses were positive about the economic impact compared to 37 per cent who were more negative – highlighting a difference in opinion between Scotland and the capital.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) saw new domestic markets as a current strategic objective. In addition, 26 per cent were positive about consumer confidence and almost a quarter (23 per cent) viewed access to people and talent as a positive part of their strategic plans. Interestingly, consumer confidence was also raised as a key concern (26 per cent), along with regulation and legislation(31 per cent); and political change (26 per cent).

Robert Ross, RSM’s regional managing partner in Scotland, said: ‘Entering into one of the most uncertain and volatile operating environments since the global economic collapse, middle market businesses in Scotland appear to be split down the middle regarding what impact Brexit will have on the economic future of the UK. However, it is encouraging to see Scottish businesses are on the front foot and preparing for change to ensure Scotland is well placed to succeed post Brexit.

‘The evident divide highlights that decision makers in Scotland take opposing view on whether the UK will adapt and emerge from Brexit stronger. Whether this view will change during the course of the negotiations remains to be seen, but initial signs highlight a mixed picture.’