Scotland business

Immigrant-led firms 'contribute £13bn to Scots economy'

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Firms run by immigrant entrepreneurs contributed £13bn to Scotland's economy and provided 107,000 jobs in 2017, according to a study.

Researchers found that one in 10 small and medium-sized businesses were led by non UK-born adults living in Scotland.

They also found migrant entrepreneurs were behind nearly half of the smaller firms which started up during 2017.

A total of 47% of 222,500 people who started a business had either come to, or moved within Scotland.

The research was commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

It was conducted by the Hunter Centre at the University of Strathclyde.

Analysis found that more than 37,000 people from other parts of the UK chose Scotland to start up in business in 2017, while more than 17,500 Scots who had previously lived overseas chose to do so.

'Huge contribution'

Over the same period, it estimated that more than 18,400 overseas immigrants were trying to establish their own Scottish businesses.

About half of Scotland's immigrant entrepreneurs were found to be based in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen.

Andrew McRae, of FSB Scotland, said: "This research shows that Scotland is home to entrepreneurs from all corners of the world and these people are making a huge contribution to Scotland's economy.

"No matter whether they're from England, Estonia or Ethiopia, what's clear is that when someone moves to a new place they bring new perspectives and business ideas.

"Policymakers need to make sure that we give all start-ups the best chance to succeed.

"But this research found particularly poor links between immigrant entrepreneurs and the public bodies charged with giving them a hand.

"This is a problem which needs addressed."


Analysis by Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland business/economy editor

You could safely assume that Scots who leave the country for distant horizons are more likely than those who remain to set up in business. It's probably true of every country.

Apart from professionals, such as doctors, migrants are less likely to be plugged in to salaried career structures where they settle. By definition, they like try new things and take risks. And making a living of some sort is a necessity.

So what does this research tell us about the profile of the so-called New Scots who are such an important part of growing the country's private sector?

They bring higher qualifications than those who start and remain in Scotland, often through university connections. They have bigger ambitions, but they find business growth can be erratic and exports are hard to get going.

The report says that being more likely to see and seize such opportunities "is true of all migrant entrepreneurs whether they have migrated from England, Estonia or Ethiopia, or located in Scotland's largest cities or remotest settlements".

In 2017, there were 220,000 people trying to start a business, according to this new research.

Of those, one in six was from England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

One in 12 was a Scot returning from having lived overseas, and as many again were immigrants with their roots overseas.

The report also notes that people who move within Scotland are among those more active in start-ups than those who stay closest to their roots.

Of the foreign-born business people, nearly a third come from Asia and the Middle East, a fifth come from western Europe (the older members of the European Union) and one in six from the new members, such as Poland and Hungary.