Confidence levels among Scottish businesses have slipped over the last six months in stark contrast to their counterparts south of the Border, a Bank of Scotland report today reveals.
This report gathers the views of more than 1,500 United Kingdom companies, predominantly SMEs, and tracks the overall "balance" of opinion on a range issues, weighing up the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.
Leigh Taylor, regional area director for SME Lloyds Banking Group, said: "Overall confidence in Yorkshire has increased since our last survey in January, but remains lower than that seen in our report last September".
"The fact that this has happened despite the political uncertainty from a snap election is a positive sign for underlying confidence in the region".
Overall, compared with January, the share of firms in the East of England naming economic uncertainty as a potential threat fell slightly by seven points to 21%, whereas weaker United Kingdom demand rose by two points to 18%.
The proportion of businesses in Scotland saying they had experienced difficulty in recruiting skilled labour in the last six months grew to 45%, compared with 34% in January.
The share of firms facing similar issues with unskilled workers also rose to 26%, up from 14%.
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But the number of businesses expecting to raise their staffing levels in the next six months increased by six points since January to eight per cent, while the number expecting to increase their average pay in the next six months increased from 12 per cent to 16 per cent.
"The outlook for the external environment remains mixed, with details of Britain's exit from the European Union still to come but businesses have been working within those parameters for a while now.
The confidence index is an average of respondents" expected sales, orders and profits over the next six months.
He added: 'Businesses have been operating in this environment for some time now and they are taking it in their stride, staying focused on what they can control and on their business'.
Scottish companies were most upbeat about export prospects to the US/Canada, followed by Europe and Africa.
The report surveyed the views of 1,500 United Kingdom companies in May, after the general election was called.
Hann-Ju Ho, Bank of Scotland senior economist, said: "Although the pound's value is seen as nearer "fair value", currency volatility remains a big concern for some United Kingdom businesses that trade internationally".
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