Chamber Members’ Say Will Have an Impact

Published in the Executive Magazine October 9th 2018

Stewart Nicol, chief executive, Inverness Chamber of Commerce

Next week is the deadline to submit your entry into the latest Scottish Chambers of Commerce quarterly economic indicator (QEI) click here to take part.

The QEI survey acts as a quarterly barometer of business health in Scotland. Some 375 businesses in 26 chambers of commerce across the country responded to the previous report, so the outcome will provide a comprehensive overview of how companies are faring.

Inverness Chamber Members’ Opinions Count

The QEI focuses on five key sectors - construction, financial and business services, manufacturing, retail and wholesale and tourism – and Inverness Chamber of Commerce members play an extremely important part in the process. We punch well above our weight in terms of contributing to the survey and, therefore, we have a strong influence in determining the overall messages.

This is significant given the weight attached to these quarterly bulletins. Not only do the views of our members in the Highlands and Islands feed into the SCC report, they in turn will be part of the British Chambers of Commerce quarterly economic survey - the UK’s largest with more than 7,500 businesses participating - which provides a snapshot of the business performance across the UK.

How the Information is Used 

The surveys are used by key agencies, including the Scottish and UK Governments and Bank of England, to reflect trends in official data, so local input is vital to ensure our successes and challenges here are highlighted as part of the wider picture.

QEIs are among the most effective tools the chamber networks have to provide in-depth data on members’ experiences and how support is delivered effectively.  They also help us react appropriately and effectively to current events and to lobby for action from the respective governments.

The last report, in July, showed strong business confidence with only 15 per cent of firms across the sample reporting a drop in optimism. In addition, 48 per cent of firms reported increased overall revenue and 89 per cent increased or maintained levels of investment relative to the previous quarter.

However, it reported less growth in sectors such as retail and tourism and highlighted a key challenge among firms in finding skilled workers. It also made it clear to government that it needs to create an environment in which the private sector can thrive to create jobs and prosperity, including investing in digital and physical infrastructure to help businesses exploit new technologies to improve productivity.

Chambers, governments and business commentators will be more than curious to learn what the views are in the latest QEI, with Brexit looming ever closer, and the uncertainty over our exit from the EU growing.

In the current climate, the soundings we take are increasingly important and need to be listened to more than ever.