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Business Focus: Self-employment must be reinstated as a first choice career option in Scotland

By David Richardson

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FSB regional development manager David Richardson.
FSB regional development manager David Richardson.

David Richardson, regional development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, on the importance of self-employment.

In the Highlands, self-employment is becoming less popular as a career option.

In 2016, there were 18,800 self-employed here; in 2019 it was 16,200; in 2020 and ’21 given the pandemic...who knows?

Moreover, research contained in a new Scottish report published by the Federation of Small Businesses found that three in five business owners believe that self-employment is a less attractive proposition as a result of the pandemic, and only one in five that the Scottish Government values their contribution. It’s depressing – and it matters.

The Highlands’ vast size, small, highly dispersed population and fragile local economies means that large and medium-sized businesses are scarce.

The overwhelming majority are independently owned and small, most being micros with fewer than 10 employees. These are the businesses that provide the services that we all need and enjoy, and almost all the private sector jobs in remoter parts too.

Self-employment is seen as a less attractive employment option as a result of the pandemic.
Self-employment is seen as a less attractive employment option as a result of the pandemic.

If we are going to reverse the population decline afflicting most of this region it is to these businesses, and the people that run them, that we must turn.

This is why our new State of Small Business Report, produced for us by the Diffley Partnership, is so important. It constitutes the first in-depth analysis of the impact of the pandemic on small Scottish businesses since the crisis began. More important still, both it and our manifesto for the Scottish elections (From Recovery to Prosperity) make some really significant recommendations that the new Scottish Government could and should adopt to reinstate self-employment as a first-choice career option throughout Scotland. Both documents can be found on our website: www.fsb.org.uk

The Highlands has enormous untapped economic potential, but it will only be realised if self-employment is given the status that it deserves, and self-employed entrepreneurs are helped and not hindered on their journeys.

We have written to Scottish Parliamentary election candidates from all parties. Let’s hope that they, and those from among them who will form the next Scottish Government, are listening.

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