The Scottish digital industry trade body ScotlandIS has called for “decisive action” by the Scottish and UK governments to limit the negative impact of leaving the EU.
ScotlandIS chief Polly Purvis has called for a ‘clear commitment’ to digital – Photo credit: ScotlandIS
The move comes after a consultation found that three quarters of ScotlandIS members said they believed Brexit would have a negative impact on access to skilled staff, sales and customer confidence.
The trade body argued that, with the country already facing a digital skills shortage, all EU citizens currently living and working in Scotland to be granted indefinite leave to remain.
It also calls for continued access to skilled EU workers in the future and a renewed focus on training to ensure a continued supply of homegrown digital professionals.
ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis said: “While negotiations on eventual exit will take time, we want the UK and Scottish governments to take immediate action on skills and productivity, to create a competitive workforce truly capable of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s challenges with a clear commitment to digital skills education for everyone.”
She added: “This will be more important than ever in a post-Brexit business environment.”
Some 62% of those who responded to the survey said that they expect a negative impact on their ability to increase sales overseas, while 22% said they would consider relocating their business.
There was a more even split on the question of ability to attract growth capital, with around half – 53% – expecting a negative impact.
Purvis said: “Businesses in Scotland’s digital technologies sector are looking for decisive action that will reduce economic and political uncertainty, protecting sales and customer confidence.
“In particular, they want reassurance and certainty about the future status of EU citizens working in the UK and vice versa.”
She added that the government needed to tackle the productivity problem “head on”.
She also called for “additional and accelerated investment in the communications infrastructure, innovation challenges, export initiatives, and support to prepare companies for new markets can help to rebalance the economy”.
Continued access to European markets is essential, ScotlandIS said, with membership of the European Single Market the “ideal outcome”, but failing that, tariff free arrangements for future trade with EU countries a second choice.
The body also asked for continued access to EU research funding for academics, and streamlined regulation between the UK and the EU in areas such as data protection and financial services.
Meanwhile, ScotlandIS welcomed the first minister’s announcement of £100m funding to boost infrastructure projects and urged the Scottish government to allocate part of the funding to digital connectivity.
More than 84,000 people currently work in digital technologies roles in Scotland, and, according the sector generates more than £5bn GVA annually.