Largely negative economic data and a slew of job losses, the North Coast 500 shows which economic road to take

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Data released by the Scottish government showed GDP contracted by 0.2% over Q2 instead of the initial 0.3% estimate. Compared to the same quarter last year, Scotland’s GDP has grown by 0.6%, revised down from the first estimate of 0.7%. 

This differed from the nowcast estimates from ESCoE last month which had growth in Scotland at 1.4%. Part of the gap is explained by different methods of calculation used by the Scottish government and by the ONS but not all of it.

The construction sector fell by 2.4%, the production sector fell by 1.5%, while the services sector grew by 0.2%.

Unemployment in Scotland increased by 20,000 to 112,000 between June and August, the increase of 0.8% was by some way the biggest jump in the UK and took the overall rate to 4.1%.

The South West of England continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East of England.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 74.3% in Scotland. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

Scottish average property prices increased by 0.3% to £154,549, which took annual growth to 1.6%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in coastal communities in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. There was no surprise that since 2010 wages fell by c20% in real terms in Aberdeen South.

Argyle & Bute and the Western Isles were also in the top ten biggest fallers in the UK. In seaside towns median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked Scotland last out of the 12 UK ‘regions’ in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.

Development

It has been revealed that the Scottish government’s own adviser was against the nationalisation of Ferguson shipyard. The yard’s administrators have now gained approval from creditors to hand it over to taxpayers via the Scottish government.

New figures from the administrator show £49.7m has already been deployed from the public purse to keep the business afloat.

Single malt Scotch whisky exported to the United States now has a tariff of 25%. The new duty is one of the measures being imposed by the US in retaliation against EU subsidies given to aircraft maker Airbus.

Scotch exports to the US last year were worth £1bn with single malts accounting for a large share of that.

Sometimes huge sums are not needed to further economic development. The North Coast 500 generated £22.8m for the north Highlands’ economy last year and created 180 new jobs, according to research by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for Tourism.

The 516 mile-long touring route takes in a network of roads around the region’s north, east and west coasts.

Room occupancy throughout the north Highlands went up from 52% in 2014 to 78% in 2018. There was also a 19.9% increase in visitors to free admission attractions and paid admission attractions went up by 41.7%. Full marks to the North Highland Tourism Initiative.

Jobs

Scotland’s unemployment figures could get worse, after a slew of job losses this month.

Korean wind turbine maker CS Wind said over 70 jobs could be lost at its Campbeltown factory in Argyll. The company cited reductions in support for renewable energy, as well as a failure to secure major project work as reasons why.

Perthshire ventilation system company MJ Ventilation has gone into liquidation with the loss of all 81 jobs. The Coupar Angus firm had solvency problems compounded by bad debts from the insolvencies of Carillion and McGill Electrical.

Then in Bellshill, sausage-skin maker Devro announced its intention to close its factory with the loss of 90 jobs. The firm said it intends to increase manufacturing at its other North Lanarkshire site in Moodiesburn, which recently received a £2m investment.

In Glasgow, more than 200 people have lost their jobs after retailer Watt Brothers went into administration. Eleven shops were closed and 229 of its 306 employees were made redundant with immediate effect.

Oil services firm Aker Solutions, which has a base at Aberdeen International Business Park, has consolidated its international engineering services and manufacturing work impacting its facility in the city. About 95 jobs are at risk.

Sixty workers at a the BiFab fabrication yard at Arnish in Lewis will not have their contracts renewed. The yard was mothballed for about a year then it was reopened in March of this year to manufacture parts for an offshore wind farm.

BiFab also has yards in Methil and Burntisland in Fife and has previously received help from the Scottish government to avoid the threat of administration. Last month, the Auditor General for Scotland said a taxpayer loan of £37m to BiFab is now valued at £2m.

Cummins which specialises in the distribution of engines and generators for various industries has announced it intends to close its operations in Cumbernauld. The company blamed increasingly challenging global economic conditions and said the facility requires a £3m investment. About 130 jobs are at risk.

A rare bright spot this month was supermarket chain Lidl, which officially opened its new £70m Scottish distribution centre in North Lanarkshire.

The 58,500 sqm warehouse is Lidl’s largest in Great Britain and will service the company’s 99 stores in Scotland. About 600 employees have relocated from Livingston to the Eurocentral-based centre and there is scope for a further 250 new jobs.

Transport

The air link between Dundee City Airport and London Stansted will continue into 2020. The UK and Scottish governments and Dundee City Council have agreed a public service obligation contract.

The service will run 11 flights every week, with the size of the planes on the route increasing from 33 to 48 seats. It is not clear how much public money is involved. The subsidy required for the initial two year period was c£3.7m

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