Record numbers seek self-employment advice in Scotland

Thursday 23 July 2015

It has been revealed that the highest number of prospective and existing self-employed workers have contacted the Business Gateway since it began to be managed by the Scottish Government in 2008.

The figures were published as part of the service’s second annual review data, and make reassuring reading for anyone concerned about the state of freelancing and contracting in Scotland, as well as in the UK as a whole.

Overall, there were 63,247 enquiries in the year to March, which represented a 11 per cent rise on the previous 12 months. Encouragingly, 26,240 of these were from people looking to start up their first business, up 32.5 per cent on the previous year.

While there have recently been concerns raised about a lack of entrepreneurs taking the plunge to start working for themselves, the number of companies set up with support from the Business Gateway remained relatively stable, dropping by just 0.5 per cent to 10,103.

This suggests that, at least in Scotland, the landscape remains relatively hospitable for sole traders, those trading as limited companies and small business owners.

Councillor Stephen Hagan of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities linked this to political developments in Scotland, and said: “It is against the backdrop of greater devolution that I am delighted to see Business Gateway increasing engagement with businesses through local offices.”

Enterprise minister Fergus Ewing said: "At the Scottish Government we refreshed our economic strategy in March of this year, ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Business Gateway has a vital role in creating that environment and improving the prospects and opportunities for Scottish businesses by offering a range of national and local resources, support and tools.”

Hugh Lightbody, chief officer at the Business Gateway’s National Unit, was similarly enthusiastic. He explained that companies who receive support from the Business Gateway had a 76.5 per cent chance of surviving for at least three years, compared to 57.1 per cent of those who do not, which he saw as a vindication of the Business Gateway’s current strategy.

The organisation’s free courses and workshops also proved popular, with 24,825 people attending across 3,200 events throughout the year, ensuring that as many people as possible were able to take of advantage of the practical insights and advice on offer.

Mr Lightbody added: “This demonstrates that with even greater engagement with the Business Gateway service there is a direct link to the future growth of the Scottish economy.”

The advice of those associated with the service seemed to be to take the bull by the horns and discover the benefits of working for yourself. As prominent entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter put it: “John Wayne said 'Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway...’ Starting a business and then building it takes courage and huge commitment, so the more support you get the easier it becomes.”

It was found that there were also half a million visitors to the site over the year-long period, viewing a total of 1.6 million pages, which suggests that there is still a large pool of would-be entrepreneurs considering taking the plunge.


By Victoria McDonnell

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