Small Business Survey Scotland: 2018

Sets out the findings of the Small Business Survey 2018.

This document is part of a collection


1. The UK ‘Small Business Survey 2018: businesses with employees’ report and data tables can be found here

2. These figures include registered and unregistered businesses (Source: Businesses in Scotland 2019) and exclude central and local government.

3. Across the UK as a whole, 11,483 SMEs with employees took part in the survey.

4. Of the 481 panellists, 440 (referred to as the “full panel”) had been interviewed in 2017 (some had also been interviewed in 2015 and/or 2016) and 41 (referred to as the “past panel”) had been interviewed in 2015 and/or 2016 but not in 2017.

5. A stratified sample is drawn from a number of separate smaller groups (strata) of the population, rather than at random from the whole population, in order to allow for a more representative sample.

6. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (A); Mining and quarrying (B); Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply (D); and Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (E).

7. Wholesale and retail trade (G); repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (H); Transportation and storage; and Accommodation and food service activities (I).

8. Financial and insurance activities (K); Real estate activities (L); and Professional, scientific and technical activities (M).

9. Education (P); Human health and social work activities (Q); Arts, entertainment and recreation (R); and Other service activities (S).

10. If the difference between two estimates is said to be statistically significant, it means that only in exceptional circumstances (1 in 20 times) would we expect the true difference not to be significant.

11. Urban/rural locations are based on the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2013-2014.  

12. Family-owned businesses are defined as majority owned by members of the same family.

13. While there is a greater proportion of MEG-led businesses in the UK as a whole compared to Scotland, this is in line with the relative proportions of the working age population that are from a minority ethnic group in Scotland and the UK as a whole. For July 2018 - June 2019, 5.1 per cent of the working age population were from an ethnic minority in Scotland compared to 14.6 per cent in the UK as a whole (Annual Population Survey).

14. Whilst Scotland saw a seven percentage point increase in the proportion of SME exporters that had exported to the EU between the 2017 (70 per cent) and 2018 (77 per cent) surveys, the increase was not statistically significant.

15. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is the intergovernmental organisation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, set up for the promotion of free trade and economic cooperation between its members, within Europe and globally.

16. 1 per cent of SME exporters did not know the number of years they have been exporting overseas.

17. Please note that while this increase in SME employers exporting to other UK nations was statistically significant, the change over the latest two surveys was partly influenced by the longitudinal element of the study and the increased number of ‘top-ups’ (businesses new to the survey) in 2017.

18. Figures for the good/service innovation are not shown for 2018. In prior year years, there were separate questions about goods and services. In 2018 a single question was asked (‘Has your business introduced any new or significantly improved goods or services in the last three years?). The drop in the proportion innovating goods or services between 2017 and 2018, and the profile of those doing so, suggests that most respondents interpreted this question in terms of goods only, not goods and services.

19. For the 2018 survey, in order to accommodate demand for more questions in the questionnaire and reduce the average interview time, respondents were divided at random into three cohorts: A, B and C. Each cohort was asked their separate series of questions. 

20. Training away from the individual’s immediate work position, whether on the same work premises or elsewhere.

21. Activities that would be recognised as training by the staff, that relate not only to the sort of learning by experience which could take place all the time.

22. 14 per cent of SME employers that offer training reported that managers in the business received off the job training, 11 per cent informal on the job training and 44 per cent received both.

23. In previous years, this question was asked to all SME employers. For the 2018 survey this question was asked to all SME employers that offered training, therefore it cannot be compared to last year’s results.

24. Apprenticeships are paid jobs which incorporate on and off the job training designed towards an approved apprenticeship standard or framework. This section does not specifically refer to Scottish Modern Apprenticeships, as funded by Skills Development Scotland.

25. 14 per cent of SME employers had bid and a further 5 per cent had expressed an interest but not bid.

26. Please note that as businesses could choose more than one option for this question, these two figures (25 per cent and 13 per cent) relating to financial advice cannot be summed.

27. Source: Living Wage Foundation

28. Modern apprenticeships with funding through Skills Development Scotland.

29. Please note that this question was asked only to SME employers in cohort C, i.e. 286 businesses.

30. Please note that this question was asked only to businesses that had been interviewed in 2017 (the “full panel”), i.e. 440 businesses.

31. 1 per cent of SME employers in Scotland did not know if or which types of finance they currently used and a further 1 per cent refused to answer the question.

32. 11 per cent of SMEs sought external finance just once, while six per cent sought it more than once.

33. This proportion includes those who had already applied for external finance in the last 12 months but who wanted more external finance that they did not apply for, as well as those that had a need for finance but did not apply at all.

34. Please note that the questions around GIVING trade credit and late payment were asked to cohort A only. The questions around RECEIVING trade credit were asked off all SME employers.

35. Please note that the questions around RECEIVING trade credit were asked off all SME employers.

36. In the survey reports for 2016 and 2017 this section referred to panellists only (businesses who had taken part each year from 2015), and changes in employment were based on changes to what businesses had reported each year. The 2018 results are based on all respondents because in 2018 we asked the ‘perceived employment change’ question to all SME employers who had been in business for at least a year. This question cannot therefore be compared to the previous year’s results. 

37. Net balances may not sum to total due to rounding.

38. The net balance is described as the overall proportion of businesses that experienced turnover growth, minus the proportion of businesses that experienced turnover reduction, compared to 12 months ago. Therefore, a positive figure indicates that more businesses within that category experienced turnover growth than those that experienced turnover reduction.

39. 85 firms in Scotland (Cohort B) reported UK exit from the EU as a major obstacle.

40. This question has changed from the prior year therefore it is not possible to draw comparisons with 2017. 

41. ‘Other difficulties’ does not sum to 100% as three per cent of businesses refused to answer the question. 

42. SMEs were asked if they planned to undertake any of the following activities: increase the skills of the workforce; increase leadership capability of managers; capital investment; develop and launch new products/services; introduce new working practices; invest in R&D; increase export sales or begin selling to new overseas markets.



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