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10 March 2017

Highland Firms Perspective on Brexit

What are Scottish smaller firms’ priorities for the Brexit negotiations? FSB headed to the Highlands to find out.

Recent FSB research revealed that one in four (26%) of Scottish businesses employ non-UK EU nationals, so it was no surprise that access to labour was important to most businesses. Ensuring that current staff are allowed to remain and access to labour and skills in the future were key priorities. 

Keltic Seafare Dingwall - Alasdair Hughson  lobster 2Keltic Seafare, a live shellfish supplier to top restaurants across the UK and Europe, based in Dingwall have a staff of 24, 60% of which are non-UK, EU nationals.

Managing Director, Alasdair Hughson said, “The talents of EU nationals have helped our business thrive over the past 25 years and we would be worried if we were to lose our current staff due to the EU referendum result. Looking to the future firms like ours must be able to continue to source international talent and labour if that’s required.”

When members of FSB policy team visited Highland Biosciences, a life sciences technology company, talk turned to both importing and exporting. Having the best components for products means that Highland Biosciences must import from Europe, any burdensome regulations or extra cost would cause concern and selling into the European market is key for their business growth.  

At the roundtable discussion with seven local firms it was clear again that access to labour was worrying for businesses in the Highlands as well as exporting and importing.Focus Group Kingsmills Hotel - 7a

Some of the tourism businesses around the table highlighted the opportunity Brexit had brought with increased visitor numbers due to the fall in Sterling. This was true for exporters as well who had seen increased sales. However the inverse was true for importers.

Concerns were raised around the uncertainty of future regulation for exporting goods into the EU and the effect that Brexit could have on the perception of British goods across Europe.

The invaluable points of view from the various businesses across the two day trip will help to inform FSB’s upcoming reports on Brexit, a flavour of which can be seen in FSB’s recently published preview document, “What Small Firms Want From Brexit: A preview of FSB’s Brexit research series”

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