Fears of ‘third wave’ and political uncertainty clouding international growth plans for mid-market businesses

Crane lifting up container in a port.

As the vaccine rollout continues across the globe, new research from leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton finds that fears of political turbulence, and a third wave of COVID-19, are the two most pressing concerns for Scottish mid-market businesses looking to grow internationally.

The four main challenges to international growth for Scottish businesses included in Grant Thornton’s survey are:

·         Third wave of Covid-19 (42%)

·         Political regime change (42%)

·         Supply chain resilience (34%)

·         Mobility of talent (34%)

With changing restrictions and continued uncertainty for many, two thirds (66%) of 611 mid-market business leaders surveyed across the UK believe that it is harder to grow their business internationally today than it was pre-pandemic.

Andrew Howie, managing partner in Scotland and head of international for Grant Thornton said: “The risk of a third wave of the virus in the UK adds another layer of complexity to the uncertain trading environment that businesses are already dealing with. Some sectors, such as travel, tourism and hospitality, are obviously harder hit by the extension of restrictions, but ongoing changes to guidance and deadlines affect all businesses. 

 “Whilst the UK’s success in vaccinating its own population adds a level of confidence, this needs to be mirrored internationally in order to be able to move forward collectively together. Political uncertainty and regime change is also clearly playing on the minds of some Scottish business leaders exploring international growth. The recently announced five-year suspension to US tariffs on Scottish whisky is a huge shot in the arm for one of our premier exports. But the Biden administration’s policies in other sectors, particularly energy, are still developing, and the uncertain domestic political environment in Scotland may also be impacting decisions on global trade.

“Though a third disruptive wave of the virus is the other joint primary concern for mid-market leaders at this moment, businesses are also dealing with the ups and downs of UK economic forecasts, ongoing complexity in their supply chains, and trying to embed some of the positive changes to the ways of working that have been accelerated by remote working.”

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