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HIE survey reveals Highlands firms' preparation for Brexit

By Calum MacLeod

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THE majority of businesses in the Highlands are responding to the global climate emergency and reducing their impacts on the environment.

These are among the conclusions from the latest Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) survey of 1000 businesses which shows that 93 per cent of companies across the region are taking steps such as minimising waste and improving energy efficiency of premises.

Martin Johnson, HIE interim director of strategy and regional economy.
Martin Johnson, HIE interim director of strategy and regional economy.

Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of larger firms (25 or more employees) are investing in more energy-efficient equipment. Food and drink businesses were more likely than average to have already improved efficiency of systems and processes.

Using more locally- sourced supplies (62 per cent), investing in more energy-efficient transport (47 per cent) and collaborating to achieve efficiencies (46 per cent) are some of the key actions businesses anticipate taking.

At a time of uncertainty for businesses, the survey also found that four in five businesses reported good (41 per cent) or steady (38 per cent) performance in the past 12 months. Levels of optimism about their prospects remain high with 72 per cent optimistic for the next year, although this is eight per cent lower than last year.

Most businesses (89 per cent) see the UK’s departure from the EU as a risk to their business; 36 per cent describe it as a significant risk. Despite this, only half (52 per cent) said they felt prepared for Brexit, 39 per cent were not.

Food and drink businesses felt less prepared than others for customs delays and changes to import and export procedures. For tourism businesses, the availability of skilled staff was more of a concern.

Martin Johnson, interim director of strategy and regional economy at HIE, said: “While business performance and optimism remain strong, there are clearly uncertainties and concerns over what lies ahead.

“There is still a lack of clarity about how Brexit will affect businesses in the region, and we encourage them to take what steps they can to prepare. Help and information is available on the Prepare For Brexit website and also on the HIE website.

“Feedback and detailed insights into the challenges and opportunities they are facing helps to inform public sector policies and strategies on how support should be tailored to best meet the region’s needs.

“Any businesses interested in taking part in future surveys are welcome to sign up to the panel and can find details on the HIE website.”

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