Page Loading
Edinburgh skyline from Calton Hill

How to set up a company in Scotland

When setting up a business in Scotland, you need to register as a private limited company or a UK branch of your foreign company. Find the professional advice you need around taxes, legal and insurance requirements in Scotland.

Find the right professional advice

Setting up your company in Scotland is a quick, simple process. But the type of legal entity you need to set up for your business depends on your goals.

To register your company in Scotland, you’ll need to register as a private limited company – also known as a subsidiary company. By registering as a private limited company in Scotland, you’re also registered for the rest of the UK. You can register as a private limited company online in just 24 hours.

Alternatively, you can register a Scottish branch of your existing company, also referred to as ‘registering a UK establishment of an existing overseas company’. This takes longer – usually about four weeks – because you need to submit extra documents and information.

Learn more about registering your business in the UKopens in a new window on

There are several ways you can structure your business in Scotland, depending on how you intend to do business.

The most widely used corporate structures are:

  • Sole trader - self-employed people usually operating a small-scale business
  • Partnership - including Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP)
  • Limited company - either a private limited company (Ltd) or a public / listed company (PLC)

Choosing the right legal structure is crucial. It will affect how you run your business, the control you have over it and your legal obligations, such as the personal liability of the directors of the company.

The type of legal structure you choose impacts:

  • Whether you need to register at Companies House
  • Which local government authority you need to notify about your business
  • The tax and National Insurance you pay
  • The records and accounts you must keep
  • Your financial liability if the business has problems
  • The ways your business can raise money
  • The way management decisions are made about the business

Get advice

A solicitor or accountant can provide advice to help you decide which structure is best for your business.

Get help with finding a solicitor or accountant 

Business Gateway also offers a range of support to help you set up your business. It provides detailed online guidance on each type of company structure.

Get legal structures guidance from Business Gateway opens in a new window  

It’s important to get the required insurance for your business. You could face serious fines if you’re not properly insured.

As a business in Scotland, you must have:

  • Employers’ liability insurance to cover compensation and legal costs if an employee (or former employee) suffers work-related injury or illness
  • At least third-party motor insurance if you use vehicles in the UK

These are legal requirements. They’re also important for your business, as you could face serious penalties or significant costs without them.

Although not required, most businesses have other insurance cover in place for protection. This may include:

  • Business insurance for your premises, including regular inspection and safety certifications of plant, machinery and electrical installations
  • The right type of liability insurance, which covers legal costs for areas like intellectual property infringement, service failure and unfair dismissal
  • Insurance that’s specific to your business needs, like product liability, personal indemnity, group travel and personal accident insurance

Find out more about business insuranceopens in a new window on

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to locate or expand your business in Scotland. That’s why it’s worth seeking professional advice from an accountant. They’ll help you choose the best way to set up your business, calculate tax liabilities correctly and have the most tax-efficient payment system for your employees.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) provides a variety of services and incentives to help you build a better company in Scotland.

Learn how ICAS can help and find an accountantopens in a new window on

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to set up, locate or expand your business in Scotland. A solicitor can help guide you through the process.

A solicitor will be able to provide legal advice on all aspects of your business. This can include business structures, tax and insurance, as well as rules for employing staff and buying or renting property.

The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body for Scottish solicitors. They'll help you identify a solicitor who can provide specialist advice to safeguard your business — meaning you can avoid costly oversights or mistakes.

Find out how the Law Society can help and find a solicitoropens in a new window on

Need some help?

If you have any questions and would like to talk with one of our advisers, we're ready to help.