A LEADING Scottish business consultant has suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic might end up being good news for Scottish businesses, but only if they are prepared to grasp the new opportunities in a very changed world.

Neil Bradbrook, managing director of Falkirk-based Ahead Business Consulting, points out that Scotland has just 6% of the UK’s business base, spread out across a third of the land area.

He said: “The geography is vast. But the scope for business growth can be slim. We tend to have fewer customers, so we’re smaller. Typically, our turnover is 12% lower than our UK counterparts. And we’re all fighting over the same pie.

“You can differentiate yourself by being cheaper – but that’s a race to the bottom. Or you can be good quality. But then it’s just luck of the draw against all the other good quality companies.

“In short, the odds are stacked against us versus our counterparts in England. Or at least they used to be … before Covid-19.

“Suddenly, we are no longer constrained by geography. Everyone has learned that you do not have to be face-to-face to do business effectively; services can be provided remotely. For Scottish businesses, that’s huge. Our market just multiplied 20-fold. You can now offer your services across the whole of the UK. Immediately, your lower Scottish overheads give you an advantage over competitors in London with higher overheads – and steeper prices. You can now genuinely offer a service to London clients that is as good quality, or better, than they currently get – for less.

“Rather than competing against fellow Scottish businesses, we can now all thrive by stealing a share of the market across the UK.

“The same is true of talent. Scots have always had to leave Scotland to find work. For years, we’ve seen the brain drain of talent heading south to get jobs. The UK has been heavily London-centric.

“But Covid has completely changed the landscape. We now all have the capability to work remotely.

“We’ve gone from local to national. But why stop there? Your business can now compete differently whether it’s the UK, Europe or the world.”

He added: “The message is to take the opportunity that Covid has presented and expand your horizons.”