SCOTLAND’S businesses are continuing to turn to Business Gateway for support in large numbers, new figures have shown.

The Scottish Government resource last year provided support to 44,808 customers and recorded the creation of 9083 start-ups.

Half of the new ventures were led by women, while 7% of the start-ups were from ethnic minorities – nearly double the proportion of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the population.

Business Gateway’s annual review also revealed the extent of businesses hailing from rural areas, which stood at 26% for new start-ups and 25% of growth firms.

Commenting on the review, Steven Heddle, chair of the Business Gateway Board, said: “Business Gateway has helped over 9000 people start a business over the last year and we continue to support the ambition for Scotland to be a leading entrepreneurial country and one which aspires to create inclusive growth and a fair working environment.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the number of women starting businesses with our support has risen to 50% of our start-up activity and that 7% of our start-ups are from ethnic minorities.

“Over the past year, the global economy has been dominated by the uncertainties arising from Brexit, polarised positions on world trade and diverging views on the important issue of climate change and that uncertainty seems to be playing out in reduced investment in growth by businesses.”

Reflecting this uncertainty, this year’s figure of 9083 for start-ups supported was slightly down (0.5%) from last year’s 9129, while the number for growth companies was down 6.8% from 3166 to 2951.

Heddle continued: “It is good, therefore, to see Business Gateway continuing to deliver the support and make the connections which enable our businesses to realise their potential and achieve their ambitions.

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“It’s also important to highlight the value of our collaborative approach with colleagues across the business environment. Working with the enterprise agencies and other partners, we have achieved a great deal, from the Prepare For Brexit website, which is helping Scottish businesses plan for an uncertain future, to our joint activity on improving the business support landscape.”

Over the last year, one of Business Gateway’s key focuses has been its technology training programme DigitalBoost, which helps companies develop and enhance their digital capabilities. More than 5000 people attended the programme workshops, with 7000 guides downloaded and more than 2500 online tutorials viewed.

Managed and delivered by Scotland’s local authorities, Business Gateway offers professional resources, support and tools to help businesses learn new skills, create new opportunities and grow.