THE number of businesses in Scotland has grown by more than 100,000 since devolution, according to new analysis.

However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, which carried out the research, has warned that firms will struggle to thrive without a change in immigration policy amid slow population growth.

Official figures suggest there were 231,535 businesses in Scotland in 2000 after the Scottish Parliament was re-convened in 1999.

This grew by 46% to 338,110 by 2018, the FSB study found.

Across the UK, the number of businesses has grown at a faster rate in the same period, up 63% – around 2.2 million. There were 3,467,200 UK businesses in 2000, rising to 5,667,500 in 2018.

FSB Scotland highlighted the country’s slower population growth, relative to the UK, between 2000 and 2018 and said it could be one of the factors contributing to the disparity in business growth rates.

Scotland’s population grew by 7.4% during that time, while the UK population rose by 12.8%.

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FSB Scotland also urged MSPs to consider the impact of their decisions on local economies.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s policy chairman for Scotland, said: “There are 100,000 more Scottish businesses now than when the new Scottish Parliament first met in May 1999.

These operators have started up in an environment where a decision made at Holyrood can have as much of an influence on a firm’s success as an announcement during the UK Budget.

“This means decision-makers in Holyrood have to combine their ambitions for the country with an understanding of how their proposals will work in the real economy.

“While UK-wide business growth figures are disproportionately influenced by London and the south east, Scotland should aspire to drive up both start-up and business survival rates.

“Building the vibrant and successful Scotland we all want to see requires a flourishing private sector.

“But to grow our business community, we need a steady stream of people prepared to set up on their own.”

McRae also called for an immigration system which is tailored to Scotland’s requirements.

He added: “FSB research shows that migrants boost Scotland’s business start-up rate, while immigrant business owners alone deliver a £13 billion annual contribution to our economy. And we know that some of our most important industries are reliant upon talent and labour from outside of Scotland.

“That’s why we need to develop an immigration policy which meets Scottish small businesses’ needs.”