Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
Senior Scottish business leaders have called for the economy to be the top priority in Brexit negotiations. Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said the UK Government needed to listen to the private sector if it was to return a good deal. “The Scottish Chambers of Commerce network has been clear in terms of our focus on these negotiations,” Ms Cameron said. “Business wants to see tariff-free access to the EU single market, with regulatory barriers kept to a minimum; we need urgent clarity of the status of EU workers in the UK and UK workers in the EU; and we need confirmation on the future of tax legislation, especially VAT, and positive outcomes on negotiations on continued access to, or the replacement of, EU funding mechanisms. “There is a wealth of business experience that must be tapped if the UK is to achieve the best possible deal over the coming years and both Governments must continue engaging and involving business in this process, as it finally gets underway. “Equally, while Brexit is vitally important to Scottish businesses, our governments cannot afford to lose sight of domestic issues.” The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland said the move to trigger Article 50 and formally begin the extrication process would have a “profound impact” on Scottish firms. “For many in the business community, like the micro-brewer who trades overseas or hotelier who employs non-UK EU workers, there are concerns that need addressed,” FSB Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said. “In particular, the right to remain for EU citizens must be guaranteed at the earliest opportunity. “As debate opens up about Scotland’s future direction, it will be important that the small business voice isn’t lost.” CBI Scotland director Hugh Aitken said the UK needed some “early wins.” “The first six months are crucial as the UK heads into these challenging and unprecedented negotiations.” he said. “Most welcome of all would be the immediate guarantee of the right to remain for EU citizens here and UK nationals in Europe, which all governments agree is desirable.” The Scotch Whisky Association said the growth of whisky exports will be a “litmus test” for Brexit’s success. Acting CEO Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “During these discussions on such a major change, the success of the Scotch Whisky industry should not be taken for granted. “As a major manufacturer and exporter, the continued growth of Scotch will be a litmus test of the success of the UK’s departure from the EU.”
The chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce has renewed calls for a reduction in business rates to support the fragile economic recovery. Liz Cameron was speaking as British Chambers revealed the results of its latest quarterly economic survey, which warned of “significant challenges” ahead despite an estimated growth spurt of around 1% in UK output in the three months to the end of September. The report, which is made up of responses from more than 7,400 businesses, found improvements in both the manufacturing and services sector UK-wide compared with the second quarter. However, there was also a fall in confidence about the prospects for the year ahead, which Ms Cameron said needed to be addressed. “All the key indicators show an improvement on the second quarter, with some improving by a significant margin,” she said. “The strength of the domestic market is particularly encouraging. “In Q2 many of the indicators were in negative territory, but in the third quarter most returned to positive. For services the figures are +8% for domestic sales and +20% for domestic orders. “However, the survey also shows a fall in confidence about the next 12 months in both the manufacturing and service sectors. “More must be done to help business growth. Action on reducing the burden of business rates would be particularly welcome.” The continued improvement in manufacturing means that six measures of performance in the survey are now at all-time highs, while overall business confidence in turnover and profitability have risen above pre-recession levels. BCC director general John Longworth said there were signs of progress, but the country could not afford to be lulled into a false sense of security. He said levels of investment were still a concern and more support was needed for exporters through increased trade promotion and better access to finance. Mr Longworth said: “The Government mustn’t get distracted, and has to put growth first at all times. “We will be looking ahead to the Autumn Statement in the hope that the Chancellor uses this opportunity to make a real difference and go all out in the name of growth.” BCC chief economist David Kern added: “The Government must switch policy priorities towards measures to boost growth, such as infrastructure investment, cutting business rates and taxes, promoting exports, and boosting the flow of lending to growing businesses through a fully funded business bank.”
Dundee’s Tag Games is targeting “aggressive growth” as it gets set for a string of key appointments. Ongoing recruitment will take the city games studio’s workforce to around 35, but founder and chief executive Paul Farley told Courier Business the new additions would also hasten further expansion. He expects Tag’s “massively important” new hires which will include a senior business development executive, art director, and marketing and data management support to help grow headcount to 50 over the coming months. “These are strategic appointments, but we’re being fairly aggressive in how we want to grow the company,” Mr Farley said. “We want to get bigger, but it’s also about planning for the future and ensuring we’ve got the people we need to keep delivering great games to customers. “The industry is more competitive than it has ever been, so this is about some key hires for the next stage of Tag’s development.” Tag is already on course to post its strongest ever turnover this year, but the new appointments are key to the company’s future. Mr Farley said a yearly review of the business had shown areas for new growth. Bringing the marketing function in house is important in the ultra-competitive marketplace, he added, while better interpretation of existing user data will help to focus what Tag offers. “It will mean we’ve got good people in all the key posts and will allow us to get to 50 fairly quickly,” Mr Farley said. “This is about planning for the future and ensuring that we don’t stagnate, which is just so important in our industry.” But he warned that, while Dundee is full of good industry talent, bringing candidates for top jobs to the city could prove challenging. “We could probably maintain our position in terms of where we are at our current size,” he said. “But we don’t want to stay where we are we want to go for the much more aggressive growth. “We think we can get business in the current environment in many multiples of what it is now.” Mr Farley said Tag is “expecting great things” from a busy pre-Christmas period, with several releases on the cards. The studio, which specialises in social and mobile games, has already worked with a range of well-known names including Doctor Who and Channel 4’s Hotel GB. Recent releases included a penalty-kick game for credit card firm and English league cup sponsor Capital One, which hit the top of the UK’s Apple download chart.
Alex Salmond centred on reindustrialising Scotland, doubling exports and encouraging more immigration as he outlined his vision for economic independence. Speaking as he launched a Scottish Government analysis paper to invited guests at Dundee University alongside Finance Secretary John Swinney, the First Minister also focused on getting more women into work and supporting business growth through tax cuts. However, Alistair Darling, former Labour chancellor and leader of pro-Union campaign group Better Together, branded the plans “fantasy economics”. In turn the First Minister rejected findings by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which claimed an independent Scotland would need to raise taxes, cut spending or both to create a sustainable economy over the next 50 years. “The one-size-fits-all economic policies of successive Westminster Governments have failed and are continuing to fail the people of Scotland,” Mr Salmond said. “We perform well at the moment but we should be doing so much better. A simple glance at many other European countries of similar size to Scotland, some without the natural advantages Scotland has, shows that we have lagged behind their growth rates for decades. “Independence will give us the chance to build an economy that takes advantage of Scotland’s unique strengths and size to deliver a more outward-focused, fairer and resilient economy, boosting revenues and creating many thousands more jobs.” The 201-page document, Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland, did contain the warning: “There will be challenges, not least in restoring the public finances to health and unravelling decades of under-investment in the economy. “Competing priorities will require to be managed.” It admitted there would be no “overnight solutions” to economic challenges. However, it also pointed to arguments suggesting there could be a “psychological ‘independence’ stimulus” which would boost business growth. It added: “For example, a number of economists believe that independence could strengthen Scotland’s national economic self-confidence.” The report also suggests that Scottish funding through the Barnett Formula could be slashed by £4 billion if the country votes no next September. On population, the First Minister noted an increase in projected figures but said: “We should be trying to be rather better than that. “We should be aiming much more ambitiously in terms of bringing our population, our working population levels, not just to the European average but significantly beyond it.” Mr Salmond focused on cutting corporation tax as one way of boosting growth and argued that productivity could also be increased by expanding exports. If the country were independent “next week”, he said Scotland would be eighth most prosperous in the world for gross domestic product and have an income £2,000 a head higher than the UK average. Mr Darling said: “Their paper seems to be telling people that the best way to respond to the warning from experts that going it alone would mean tax rises for families and service cuts to communities is to make unfunded promises of business tax cuts. It just doesn’t make any sense. “It wouldn’t solve the problem if anything, it would make it worse.”
More than half of British businesses expect to take on new staff in the coming year as the economic environment continues to improve. Professional services group KPMG’s latest Business Instincts Survey found 58% of the almost 500 UK firms it surveyed were planning to increase their workforce in the 12 months ahead. However, the report also identified a legacy issue from the recession in terms of a widening skills gap across major sectors. More than a third of respondents said the issue in the UK economy was so acute that upskilling staff was their number one investment priority in the short to medium term. “Many businesses are feeling under-investment in staff during the downturn has led to a skills deficitm and the war for talent is most definitely back,” KPMG Scotland senior partner Craig Anderson said. “The solution is not as simple as going out and rehiring talent. The right people are not always available, and competition is tough for the best hires.” Around a fifth of businesses surveyed for the report in April and May said bringing forward new investment in technology and plant was also key to their long-term growth strategies. The survey showed firms were finding it easier to access the cash required to fund growth programmes, with just 4% of respondents saying they were having problems accessing cash. Overall, the survey found optimism among respondents that they would make progress this year, with 86% reporting they expected to increase turnover and 81% anticipating a profits hike. “Having survived the recession, profitable growth is the number one priority for UK business,” said Mr Anderson. “Their focus is on technological change and its impact on markets and having the right people in the right roles. “Forward-thinking companies are the ones that recognise that these two factors are linked. Effective investment in technology infrastructure helps with the optimal use of resources and increased margins. “It is encouraging news that companies are now ready to seek new opportunities, and have the confidence to be able to invest in the technology and people that they need to achieve their growth ambitions. “However, as starting salaries and staff costs have started to rise for the first time in years, it could ultimately mean that while profits increase, for many businesses profitability could indeed fall.”
Fife builder Campion Homes has received a multi-million pound investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) to accelerate its building programme in private residential and affordable homes. The Dunfermline-based business would not disclose the amount invested by BGF but said it would help with plans to plans to build 700 new homes over five years. Campion has weathered fluctuations in the housing market during the past decade, maintaining profitability and building a strong pipeline of land for development. In the year to June 2015 it reported a pre-tax profit up 60% at £685,750 from a turnover up 13% at £15.8 million. Founded by Pete Bell , the company has built more than 1,500 homes across Fife, the Lothians, Clackmannanshire and,Perth & Kinross since 1989. It is currently selling at three private developments in Fife: Laurel Bank in Springfield, Rosemount in Leven and Hawthorn Bank in Dunfermline. Future developments in the pipeline are at Law View Leven, Cuparmuir and Dairsie. To support the growth in private residential development, Mike Stansfield, former chief executive of national builder David Wilson Homes, has been appointed as a non-executive director of Campion following an introduction by BGF. Campion has worked with public housing authorities in east central Scotland for more than 26 years, and the affordable homes segment remains a significant area of focus. An increase in activity is expected following an announcement by the Scottish Government, of plans to build 50,000 new affordable homes over the course of the next parliament. Chairman Pete Bell said: “This is an exciting time for our business. There has been significant demand for our recent developments and our pipeline is strong. "We have chosen to take on a funding partner in order to accelerate our growth opportunities. This investment will allow us to meet the increasing demand quickly without compromising our quality and delivery. “We explored other funding options but BGF is considered by us to be the right fit for our business. BGF is a flexible, long-term and non-controlling funding partner.” BGF’s Patrick Graham, who joins the board as a non-executive director, said: “The team at Campion Homes has built a fantastic business, one that is ambitious and has solid foundations. "Our funding is unlocking a clear growth opportunity, underpinned by a quality land bank in a strong market and a management team that has significant experience in housing development.” BGF provides growth capital to small and mid-sized businesses which are privately-owned or listed on AIM, and typically have revenues of between £5m and £100m. It makes initial investments of £2m to £10m and can provide additional funding to support further growth. The investment is typically in the form of equity in return for a minority equity stake. BGF has capital of up to £2.5 billion and is backed by five of the UK’s main banking groups - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Standard Chartered.
For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.
The head of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the group expects the economic recovery to be “cemented” in 2014. However, chief executive Liz Cameron warned governments on both sides of the border to keep their eye on the ball or risk losing the building economic momentum. She was commenting as a poll by sister organisation the British Chambers of Commerce found evidence of solid growth in the UK, and increasing confidence that the economy would continue to improve this year. The fourth-quarter BCC poll of more than 8,000 firms saw a range of key economic indicators surge past pre-recession levels seen in 2007. The organisation estimated that GDP would grow to 0.9% in the period a marginal acceleration on the official estimate of 0.8% growth in Q3 on the back of solid data from the manufacturing sector that dispelled fears that growth seen in the third quarter was just a blip. The vital services sector which has led the recovery and represents three-quarters of the overall UK economy also polled well, with record employment as well as export readings in the latest quarter. However, the overall positive picture identified by the BCC was tempered by continuing concerns over access to finance and inflationary pressures. Ms Cameron said the economy had shown strong signs of growth in late 2013, and it looked as though the upwards trajectory would continue this year. “Next week, Scottish Chambers of Commerce will be publishing our own more detailed survey of business performance and expectations in Scotland and we will be looking at the prospects for a number of key business sectors,” she said. “Early indicators are that 2014 could be the year when the economic recovery is cemented and there is every reason for optimism. “But nothing can be taken for granted, and businesses will require continued attention and support from our governments at a Scottish and UK level.” BCC director general John Longworth said the survey showed ground was being made in the economic fightback. “Confidence is high and our members are resolute in their determination to take the recovery from being good to being truly great,” he said. “Firms across the board believe they can create jobs, invest and export. “But businesses have major ambitions and, to be able to meet them, more support must be provided. “We must give companies the opportunity to get the finance they need to go out and trade in the world if we are to succeed in rebalancing the economy.” David Kern, chief economist at the BCC, said: “It is clear that the UK recovery is likely to continue to strengthen in the short term. “On the basis of these results, GDP growth in Q4 could well be around 0.9%, and higher full-year growth in 2013 and 2014 could follow.” However, he warned that risks from the eurozone could have an adverse impact on exports.
UK economic growth is expected to stay steady but subdued over the next couple of years, according to the latest CBI economic forecast. The tepid growth seen in 2017 is set to continue with the leading business group forecasting that GDP will grow at a rate of 1.5% for 2017, 1.5% in 2018 and 1.3% in 2019. The CBI expects quarterly GDP growth of a subdued 0.3% up to the end of 2019 — unchanged from June and almost half the average rate of growth seen since 2013. Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “After a timid 2017, UK economic growth is set to remain steady but sluggish, with less pep than we’ve seen over the past few years. “We expect domestic demand to remain soft. Household spending will remain under pressure from squeezed real wages and Brexit uncertainty will weigh on business investment. “But encouragingly, we should see more support from net exports, buoyed by the lower pound and a resurgent global economy. “The lacklustre rates of growth that we’re expecting come against the backdrop of several years of persistently weak productivity, which is pushing down on the UK’s supply potential. “The Government’s newly announced industrial strategy can help address this challenge and boost living standards. “But the recent White Paper is just a first step — consistency and determination is needed to make this a long-lasting success.” Following the Bank of England interest rate rise in November, the CBI expects a further three rate rises, each of 25 basis points, over this forecast — in Q3 2018, and in Q2 and Q3 2019, taking the rate to 1.25%. The CBI forecasts thinks inflation will have peaked at 3% in October this year and thereafter expects it to ease gradually, though above the Monetary Policy Committee’s 2% target. With only a lukewarm pick-up in wage growth expected, living standards are set to stay under pressure. The global economy has been growing strongly and the CBI expects its momentum to remain solid, providing a supportive backdrop for economic growth in the UK. The CBI expects the global economy to grow by 3.6% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018 and 3.4% in 2019. The CBI has upgraded its forecast for Eurozone growth in particular, with the recovery across several countries having picked up pace. The group said the UK outlook remains subject to a high degree of downside risk — particularly in 2019, when a disorderly outcome from Brexit negotiations could disrupt the economy. Alpesh Paleja, CBI principal economist, said: “The global economy is firing on all cylinders, with the upturn in growth becoming more broad-based. We expect this to continue in the near-term.”