Scottish economy 'at 25-year low'

BUSINESS leaders north of the Border today warned that the Scottish economy was in its "most depressed" state in almost 25 years and would continue a downward spiral unless it became easier for companies to get credit.

Liz Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), issued the stark warning as she published the organisation's quarterly business survey.

It found 60 per cent of all respondents were less confident about the business situation at the end of 2009 – the highest proportion ever recorded in the history of the survey – with many of the remaining 40 per cent adding that there would "no change" compared with the end of 2008.

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The retail sector was the least optimistic, the survey's author said, with only 5 per cent saying they expected things to be better by the end of 2009. The sector has been one of the hardest hit by the downturn, with the number of firms reporting falling sales increasing every quarter since the end of 2007. And 67.9 per cent of retail firms reported declining sales in the final quarter of 2008.

The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University, also found trading conditions had deteriorated further in all sectors.

Cameron said: "The results of our latest survey underline the deteriorating state of the Scottish economy across all sectors and highlight the challenges we face in the year ahead.

"Trading conditions worsened significantly towards the end of 2008 and it is critical that credit, on reasonable terms, is available for businesses."