1,003 small and medium-sized businesses in the private sector in Scotland were interviewed for this survey. Fieldwork was undertaken via telephone by Ipsos MORI Scotland, an independent market research company, from 4 November 2019 to 10 January 2020. The data analysis and report was completed by the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser, Scottish Government.
As with all previous Scottish Government SME Access to Finance Surveys, the 2019 survey questionnaire was largely based on the UK SME Finance Survey 2007. This was to allow comparisons to be made over time on a consistent basis as much possible. However, new questions were added over time to reflect changing circumstances. The 2019 survey asked firms about their experiences in seeking finance both over the past three years and over the past 12 months. The questionnaire included the following broad sections:
- demographic questions (both business and respondent) including size of firm, type of firm (growth, exporting, new start), industrial sector and owner characteristics;
- use of finance and borrowing patterns;
- demand for finance, where firms are asked about facilities applied for over the past three years including types of credit facilities;
- an assessment of levels of supply of finance based on firm and application rejection rates and final outcomes over the past three years;
- questions relating to accessing finance over the last 12 months to assess levels of demand for new or additional borrowing, and to explore further issues such as the (perceived) cost of credit to firms; and
- questions relating to businesses' willingness to use and apply for external finance.
The sample of SMEs was primarily drawn from Dun & Bradstreet. As in the 2010 and 2012 surveys, the 2019 survey sought to achieve a target of 400 firms who had either sought new additional lending or refinanced over the last 12 months to enable a more robust analysis of the experience of those firms. Quotas were also set by business size (number of employees), sector, location (urban/rural) and for new businesses. The achieved sample is shown in the table overleaf.
|Micro (0-9)||Small (10-49)||Medium (50-249)||Total|
|AB Agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing||61||8||3||72|
|K Business activities||106||91||26||223|
|HINO Hotels, /restaurants; transport, storage and communication; health/social work; and other community, social and personal services)||181||155||50||386|
Throughout the analysis, weighting has been applied to the data by business size, sector and location to ensure that results are representative of the overall Scottish SME population. Whilst the data has also been weighted (using the survey screening data) to take account of the oversampling of businesses that sought new additional lending or refinanced over the last 12 months, the weighting applied is not representative of the overall Scottish SME population. Therefore the survey results do not reflect the SME population's demand and use of finance. As a result, this report draws on other sources, the BVA BDRC SME Finance Monitor and the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's Longitudinal Small Business Survey, to provide a picture of SMEs' current use and demand for finance. The survey results on businesses' experiences in seeking to access finance are not affected by this.
Where possible, the report provides comparisons with the 2012 survey (the last year the survey was undertaken) and key results disaggregated by:
- business size band: micro (0 - 9 employees - includes sole traders); small (10-49 employees) and medium (50-249 employees)
- sector (six broad sectors are considered: agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing (Standard Industrial Classifications sections A and B); manufacturing (D); construction (F); wholesale/retail (G); business activities (K); hotels/restaurants, transport, storage and communication, health/social work and other community, social and personal services (HINO)
- location (urban/rural)
- risk rating
- firm type:
- high growth firms: businesses that have stated turnover growth of 20 per cent or more per year over the last three years and had ten or more employees at the start of the three year period
- exporters: firms that sell goods or services overseas (outwith the UK)
- new starts: firms that were established less than two years ago.
Where comparisons are drawn between sub-groups (e.g. size band), findings are reported in terms of differences between a particular sub-group (e.g. micro firms) and the overall finding (SMEs as a whole). Due to smaller sample sizes for sub-groups, the survey's estimates may be affected by sampling errors and therefore apparent differences of a few percentage points between sub-samples may not reflect real differences in the population. Therefore, sub-group comparisons in the report are displayed only when the difference with the overall finding is statistically significant at 95 per cent confidence level.