Medium-sized businesses believe the regional economic gap has widened

November 2020

  • More than two thirds (68%) of mid-sized businesses in Scotland believe that COVID-19 will further widen the UK’s north / south economic gap 
  • More than a third of (38%) of Scottish mid-sized businesses believe the pandemic will slow down progress in the Government’s ambitions to level-up less prosperous regions with London
  • Adapting their business for new local lockdown restrictions is the number one immediate concern for leaders of medium-sized businesses in Scotland

COVID-19 will worsen the UK’s north/south economic divide according to a poll of 500 medium-sized business leaders, published today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.  

According to the survey, 30% of medium-sized business leaders believe the outbreak of the virus has already widened the economic gap between the UK’s regions and more than a third (38%) of those surveyed believe the disruption caused by the pandemic will slow down levelling-up progress. 

At the start of this year the Government announced its ambitions to ‘level-up’ less prosperous regions with London and the South East. This came on the back of election promises to invest in Scottish infrastructure, technology and innovation that would ‘uniformly distribute opportunity across the UK.’

The fourth monthly Rethinking the Economy poll from BDO, revealed the biggest concern for Scottish businesses is adapting their business for new local lockdown restrictions. UK-wide the number one concern is cashflow, highlighting the variance in challenges faced by businesses based in those regions impacted by local restrictions. 

The research showed that after adapting for local lockdowns, Scottish business leaders ranked: engaging international supply chains; making loan payments and adapting their businesses for Brexit as the greatest immediate concerns for their companies. 70% of Scottish businesses do have a Brexit strategy in place, compared to a 63% national average. 

Martin Bell, Partner and Head of Tax at BDO in Scotland commented on the findings:

“As business owners balance immediate operational demands with longer-term strategy and scenario-planning around issues such as COVID-19, local lockdowns and Brexit, the Government faces the challenge of balancing the public health challenge with the health of the economy. 

“To ensure the long-term economic recovery of the nations and regions, the Government needs to take a local approach to supporting regional mid-sized businesses to navigate the months ahead. Because, to achieve the ambitious goal of ‘levelling up’, it must be acknowledged that many businesses are facing unique trading conditions depending on their location.”


Note to editors

Medium-sized businesses are defined as businesses with revenue between £50-£350m.   The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of BDO in October 2020. 

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world. 

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high-growth businesses that fuel the economy.  

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed.  


BDO LLP operates in 17 locations across the UK, employing nearly 5,500 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 88,000 people working out of 1,800 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $9.6bn.  



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