Scottish economy overview

Looking for new opportunities for your business? Learn more about Scotland's diverse and growing economy and why it could be perfect place for your business.

Scottish economy facts and stats

Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million, mainly spread across seven cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee and Stirling. Scotland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe at 4.2%. The median full-time monthly salary before tax is £2,550 (around $3,400 or €2900).

74.3% employed*

Scotland has one of the highest employment rates in Europe.

£2.7 billion in R&D funding**

Latest gross expenditure on research and development in Scotland.

50% in further education

Over half the Scottish population undertakes further education.

*Scotland's labour market statistics, Nov-Jan 2021; **2018 Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) statistics, Scottish Government, Oct 2020

What is Scotland's GDP?

Scotland’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is estimated at £166.8 billion, or £30,530 per person.

Find a full summary of Scotland's economic statistics on the Scottish Enterprise website

Business landscape in Scotland

There are around 364,310 private sector enterprises currently operating in Scotland. An estimated 99% of these companies are small or medium-sized enterprises, providing 1.2 million jobs.

Learn about Scotland's strengths in the following industries:

University spinout companies

University spinouts remain an important source of growth for Scotland's economy. Five Scottish universities rank among the top 25 universities in the UK for total number of spinouts, according to a recent Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub and Beauhurst report.

Top 5 Scottish universities by total number of spinouts:

  • University of Edinburgh 52
  • University of Strathclyde 38
  • University of Glasgow 29
  • University of Aberdeen 20
  • University of Dundee 16

Source: Spotlight on spinouts: UK academic spinout trends, January 2021

Artificial intelligence is the most commonly used emerging technology by spinouts.

Read our blog on 11 future technologies and Scotland's expertise

Need help to commercialise your research or scale your business in Scotland? We can help accelerate your journey.

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Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Scotland

Scotland is the most attractive location in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment, according to the EY Attractiveness Survey 2020.

Scottish cities are thriving hubs for business – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen all feature in the top ten cities outside London for FDI.

The survey of global investors in this year’s report identified clean tech and renewables as the number one sector expected to drive growth in Europe in the coming years. Aberdeen stands out as it already has a wealth of skills and experience bolstered by internationally renowned universities to feed the talent pipeline.

The survey also found that Scotland’s machinery and equipment and agri-food sectors generated the highest number of inward investment projects while there was a notable rise in manufacturing and R&D activities.

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, is the UK's most entrepreneurial city, topping UK cities with most promising growth prospects, according to the Lambert Smith Hampton's 2019 Vitality Index.

Edinburgh is also ranked fourth in the world for quality of life in a recent survey of 56 cities around the world by Deutsche Bank, 2019.

More on Scotland's FDI performance and recent investments

Recent FDI projects in Scotland

LumiraDx has announced a £78 million investment in its current Scottish operations - the largest and most ambitious R&D investment of its kind in Scotland.
Scott Stewart, Head of Barclays Scotland
Global financial firm Barclays chooses Scotland for state-of-the-art workplace for the bank’s functions, technology and operations teams.

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