Brexit clouds gather over booming Scottish jobs market

29 January 2019

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Whenever a major national employer warns that a disorderly Brexit could cost jobs and push-up prices, many people dismiss it as the latest instalment of Project Fear.

Forecasts of economic doom caused by Britain exiting the European Union are viewed very differently depending on which side of the argument you fall.

Even those who balk at predictions of financial Armageddon will have taken note of a letter signed jointly by the heads of several major retailers – including  Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Waitrose – warning that leaving without a deal could result in empty supermarket shelves.

Last month research from the University of Sussex suggested such an outcome could lead to the loss of 63,500 jobs north of the border - more tragic at a time when the Scottish labour market is outperforming the rest of the UK.

The latest RBS Jobs Market Report said this week that permanent staff appointments increased sharply at the end of the year, while temporary billings increased.

In both cases, the rises were faster than noted on average for the UK, where growth slowed to a 20-month low.

Set against that good news are the first signs of supply-side trouble ahead for employers as Scotland heads for the EU exit door.

Scottish recruiters are reporting severe deteriorations in candidate availability, which is pushing up rates of pay for both short-term and permanent roles.

“Whether continued declines in labour supply begin to restrict growth in placements is yet to be seen.”

Added to that is new evidence that listed UK company directors have failed to prepare properly for a ‘no deal’ outcome.

A survey by Mactavish, experts on commercial insurance governance and disputes, suggests most directors have overlooked liabilities, which could leave them personally exposed to legal actions because of limitations to insurance cover.

And a report by commercial property firm Colliers International, says firms are being  starved of suitable office developments investors hold back ahead of Brexit.

Research showed there was soaring demand for office space in the past 12 months, in Glasgow in particular, where financial service and public sector activity doubled.

As the city’s economic strategy, aimed at nurturing key sectors such as financial services, takes shape, large offices have been sold or leased to HMRC, Barclays and Clydesdale Bank in recent months. JP Morgan is among those looking for new premises in the city.

For many people boredom with Brexit means they no longer pay attention to the warnings and are pressing ahead with their lives regardless. We can only hope that by March 29 we’re not forced back down to earth with a bump.

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