Not long ago, Scotland was cited as the worst small country in Western Europe as far as economic growth is concerned, and that evaluation reflected another review, of the FSB’s Business Gateway services. Colin Borland, head of external affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said that private sector jobs created by small and medium businesses are the backbone of a healthy economy, but those businesses can’t do the job without some help.
A review by Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism committee (EET) has led to the recognition that Business Gateway needs to make some changes and improvements in its services, to focus on saving jobs that are threatened and creating new ones in the private sector. The cutbacks in spending that have already affected public sector employment should not be a major factor for the businesses that rely on assistance from FSB.
Contracts between the service organisation and Scotland’s small business owners will expire in September next year, and Borland commented that at the time they were put in place, the economy was in much better shape than it is at the moment. He said the targets those contractors were given are unrealistic given the economic environment, and the support services need to be revamped.
Business Gateway is the service that provides practical advice and support to new and growing businesses; they offer special events and seminars as well as one-on-one assistance. One of the complaints that will be addressed is the relative dearth of individual counselling, as the vast majority of small business owners prefer the one-on-one approach. In the past only those businesses that met specific growth criteria were eligible for that sort of personalized service.
Another important factor in the restructuring of FSB’s Business Gateway contracts is the flexibility to deal with an uncertain future. If economic recovery and growth depends upon the vitality of small businesses (and just about everyone agrees that’s the case) then the nourishment of those businesses must be a priority. Getting the right services to them when those services are needed should be the highest priority of the FSB, and not incidentally, of the country’s leaders.