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26 October 2017

Why do city MSPs dominate our business hotspot list?

What does tech business start-up incubator Codebase have in common with fancy pants seafood restaurant Ondine? And it isn’t that one cracks code and the other cracks claws.

Well despite the fact that one deals in haute cuisine and the other in the high-tech, they’re both in the Edinburgh Central Scottish Parliament constituency, alongside more than 7000 other businesses.

As part of our search for Scotland’s best businesses (enter for free at we dug out figures revealing which MSPs have the largest local business populations. The data shows Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has more registered businesses in her constituency than any other MSP.  

But, just up past Murrayfield, neighbouring SNP parliamentarian Gordon Macdonald has the fastest growing local business community in the country. The number of firms in his constituency has grown by almost half (48%) since 2010 – this compares to the national average of 12 per cent. 

Constituencies Table

Two other Edinburgh MSPs – Ash Denham and Ben Macpherson – have seen explosive growth in local firms, with their business populations expanding by 37 per cent and 40 per cent respectively since the start of this decade. 

Despite the growth seen in the capital, three in five of the constituencies with the largest local business populations are in Aberdeen city and shire. Indeed – just three MSPs have over 13,000 constituent businesses in the north east: Alexander Burnett, Kevin Stewart and Gillian Martin.  

In Glasgow, the Kelvin constituency has the highest number of local firms, coming second in the entire country. Ivan McKee MSP’s constituency of Glasgow Provan has also seen a big spike in local firms – with a 43 per cent increase since 2010.

What do these figures tell us? Well, we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that urban constituencies – that generally have slightly higher populations – have bigger business communities. Further, a lot of firms are based in the city, but their staff teams live out in the suburbs, leading to these pockets of industry. 

FSB member Saltire Roofing look over Murrayfield, at the junction between the Edinburgh Central and Pentlands constituenciesLastly, these figures track registered businesses – who are generally larger than their unregistered counterparts. While we know that entrepreneurship per head of population in rural areas is higher than average, many of these businesses are very small indeed.

However, the figures also raise some other interesting questions to which we don’t yet have the answers.

Do these MSPs interact with more businesses as part of their work than their colleagues? Are MSPs with large local business communities more interested in their issues? Do the large spikes in growth suggest that the Scottish economy is becoming more city-centric?  

What I do know is that strong relationships between politicians and local firms are vital if we’re going to solve Scotland’s problems. 

And with big initiatives like city deals and low emission zones likely to disproportionately affect businesses in urban Scotland, city elected representatives might have their work cut out.

Note: Thanks a lot to the team Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) for pulling a lot of these numbers together. They produce extraordinarily detailed and insightful work.

Stuart Mackinnon is external affairs manager for the FSB in Scotland


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