BUSINESS confidence in Scotland has risen as companies’ plans for hiring staff have hit their highest level in a year, according to a new report.

The Bank of Scotland’s Business Barometer for June shows a 17 percentage point rise in overall business confidence across Scotland in the past month to 17%.

Hiring intentions north of the border have reached their highest level since May 2018 as a net balance of a fifth of businesses (20%) plan to create new jobs in the next year – up 23 percentage points on last month.

Economic optimism has risen 19 percentage points to 2% in the past month, while firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was 32%, up from 17% in May.

Brexit fears for businesses have dropped in Scotland, the barometer found, but a net balance of around a third of firms still believe the UK’s exit from the EU is having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity.

This has dropped 18 percentage points from last month.

Business confidence increased in the retail sector, up by 11 points to 22%. Gains were also seen in construction, up five points to 17%, and in the services sector, up five points to 12%. In contrast, confidence in the manufacturing sector fell by 11 points, bringing June’s figures back in line with the low seen earlier this year.

The monthly survey of 1200 businesses found business confidence in Scotland is four percentage points higher than that across the UK as a whole.

UK-wide overall confidence grew three percentage points to 13% between May and June.

Fraser Sime of Bank of Scotland, said: “It’s encouraging to see not only a rise in confidence among Scottish businesses but also that this is translating into intentions to employ more people in 2019. This is hopefully the start of a more continued optimistic outlook on the year ahead for firms across all sectors.”

Paul Gordon, managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Ongoing political uncertainty somewhat unsurprisingly leaves firms’ assessment of the expected impact of the UK leaving the EU largely negative. In the face of this, it’s perhaps even more encouraging to see improvements in business confidence in a number of business sectors this month.”