Scottish SMEs are ‘least prepared for Brexit’

Small businesses in Scotland are the least prepared for Brexit, according to a new report.

Companies with more than 250 employees appear more prepared by engaging with academic reports and the business community, it was found.

The banking sector has undertaken the most detailed scenario planning for leaving the EU but appear more focused on their own businesses than that of their customers, according to a survey by consultancy Momentous Change, set up by former SNP MPs Michelle Thomson and Roger Mullin.

They surveyed found that only 23 per cent had engaged with academics and 31 per cent with business groups about Brexit.

Only 9 per cent of business respondents said they have consulted with their banks regarding Brexit but all had questions for both the UK and Scottish Governments.

The two highest asks of the UK Government were to establish transition arrangements specifically geared to assisting businesses and to make explicit matters that will be devolved to Scotland.

In relation to the Scottish Government the key asks were to make clear how it would seek to use any new devolved powers and to increase direct engagement with the business community.

Mr Mullin, who is also Honorary Professor at the University of Stirling Management School, said: “The initial findings of our report indicate an urgent need for the Scottish Government to actively encourage joint efforts involving Scottish Enterprise, the relevant academic communities and business organisations in scaling up briefings on Brexit for the business community.

“These efforts should go beyond general briefings and involve practical workshops on surveying staff and skill needs, scenario planning and financial modelling.”

Ms Thomson said: “We asked our business respondents to indicate with whom they had consulted as part of preparations for Brexit and to our surprise only 9 per cent indicated engagement with banks.

“The functioning of an effective banking and financial system is critical for all sectors of the economy and this lack of engagement with the SME sector in particular should set alarm bells ringing.

“How banks and financial institutions will manage their existing business client base if economic turbulence continues is unclear.