Scotland’s digital sector calls for action to tackle negative impact of Brexit
Polly Purvis, chief executive ScotlandIS - Image credit: ScotlandIS
Scotland’s digital technologies sector is calling for “decisive action” by the Scottish and UK governments to limit the negative impact of leaving the EU.
The call comes from digital trade body ScotlandIS after a consultation found that three quarters of its members predict Brexit will have a negative impact on access to skilled staff, sales and customer confidence.
The digital technologies sector is already facing a skills shortage and ScotlandIS wants all EU citizens currently living and working in Scotland to be granted indefinite leave to remain.
It also calls for continued access to skilled EU workers in the future and a renewed focus on training to ensure a continued supply of homegrown digital professionals.
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ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis said: “While negotiations on eventual exit will take time, we want the UK and Scottish Governments to take immediate action on skills and productivity, to create a competitive workforce truly capable of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s challenges with a clear commitment to digital skills education for everyone.
She added: “This will be more important than ever in a post-Brexit business environment.”
Sixty-two per cent of those who responded to the survey said that they expect a negative impact on their ability to increase sales overseas and more than a fifth, 22 per cent, said they would consider relocating their business.
There was a more even split on the question of ability to attract growth capital, with 53 per cent expecting a negative impact and 47 per cent predicting no change or a positive impact.
Continued access to European markets is essential, ScotlandIS says, with membership of the European Single Market the “ideal outcome”, but failing that, tariff free arrangements for future trade with EU countries a second choice.
The trade body welcomed the First Minister’s announcement of £100m funding to boost infrastructure projects and urged the Scottish Government to allocate part of the funding to digital connectivity.
Continued access to EU research funding for researchers and streamlined regulation between the UK and the EU in areas such as data protection and financial services are both on the wishlist too.
Polly Purvis said: “Businesses in Scotland’s digital technologies sector are looking for decisive action that will reduce economic and political uncertainty, protecting sales and customer confidence.
“In particular, they want reassurance and certainty about the future status of EU citizens working in the UK and vice versa.
“Tackling the productivity problem head on, together with additional and accelerated investment in the communications infrastructure, innovation challenges, export initiatives, and support to prepare companies for new markets can help to rebalance the economy.
“By addressing these issues now, Scotland and the UK will be in a better position whatever the final outcome of negotiations.”
More than 84,000 people currently work in digital technologies roles in Scotland.
The sector generates more than £5bn GVA annually and according to KPMG’s Tech Monitor the number of technology businesses in Scotland grew 43.3 per cent between 2010 and 2015, second only to London.