Scottish business mental health crisis revealed in survey

Andrew McRae
Andrew McRae, FSB Scotland's policy chair

FSB urges new support at budget

TWO fifths of business owners say they’re worried about their mental health, a survey of 1200 Scottish entrepreneurs has found.

More than half of the respondents (55%) to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) poll said that they had concerns about the survival of their business, while slightly less than half (46%) were worried about keeping up-to-date with changing government regulations. About a third of business owners (30%) said that repaying debt weighed on their mind, while just under half (44%) are worried about their pay or the income of their family. 

FSB is urging those that work for themselves in Scotland to do what they can to look after their mental wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis. They also want to see the Scottish Government pilot a new support service specifically for small business owners and the self-employed to prevent a mental health crisis.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Speak to any group of people in business in Scotland and you’ll find that the last 12 months has taken a toll on their collective mental health. It is little wonder.  They have faced the same life challenges as the rest of the population, with the added pressure of taking endless high-stakes decisions about the future of their business.  

“While we want to see governments in Edinburgh and London take better care of the small business community, we have to take care of each other. That means more people in business seeking out help for themselves or their staff.”

FSB provides services for members to support their mental health, and offers a range of online advice for the wider business community.

The survey, conducted between 13-18 January, shows that only one in three Scottish businesses (32%) are trading broadly as normal, with a similar proportion either closed voluntarily or by law (35%), and about a third open but in a restricted manner (33%). Two thirds of businesses (64%) report that either they’re struggling to stay afloat or that sales and profits are under sustained pressure.

The small business campaign group says it is vital that policymakers at Holyrood and Westminster put small business survival and recovery at the top of their agenda.

In a letter to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes ahead of the Scottish Government budget, set to be published next Thursday, FSB urged Ministers to commit to maintain coronavirus-related rate reliefs for smaller firms for at least the next two financial years. The small business group also wants government, councils, regulators and agencies to reduce, freeze or scrap charges and fees until smaller firms get back on their feet. 

In addition, they make the case for additional grant funding to be provided to help smaller firms use digital technologies to adapt to the current crisis.

Andrew McRae said: “Next week’s Scottish Government budget in Edinburgh is an opportunity for Ministers to put small business survival and recovery at the top of their agenda. With the widespread roll-out of the vaccine, it would be a tragedy if insufficient support saw thousands of small businesses fall at the final hurdle.

“That means taking long-term action to keep overheads as low as possible for businesses facing ongoing trading restrictions and a long recovery. It means getting the grant system working as it should, and channelling funding into encouraging business to innovate out of this crisis.”

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