New research demonstrates strength of crafts businesses in Scotland

24 January 2002, United Kingdom

Independent research just published by the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, confirms the contribution of crafts businesses to Scotland’s economy and creative industries. The benefits delivered include indigenous small firm growth, the promotion of a positive image of Scotland at home and abroad, and competition in global markets. Crafts businesses play a particularly vital role in rural and remote areas, where they are contributors to tourism, the local economy and the fabric of the community, according to the report. The size of the crafts sector in Scotland is estimated to be around 3,000 small businesses, with a projected annual turnover of between £95 million and £150 million. 83% of the businesses operate as micro-enterprises employing one or two persons. This small size can be advantageous in delivering flexibility, dynamism and aggressive exploration of difficult markets. Often eager embracers of new technologies, the report found that craft businesses can sometimes enter the stage as ‘instant internationals’, exporting within one year of founding and exploiting the potential of e-commerce. The study was commissioned to define the size and nature of the crafts sector in Scotland, its existing markets, export status, sources of available support and to scope its business needs. It also explores models of good practice in initiatives to support crafts in Orkney, the Republic of Ireland, and the Scottish Borders. All known crafts businesses in Scotland were surveyed by questionnaire and the 700 replies received formed the basis of the report’s findings:
  • ceramics, textiles, wood and jewellery businesses form the basis of the sector;
  • 50% of crafts enterprises were founded in the 1990s (11% founded since January 2000);
  • 44% of businesses have exported at some point, and 29% are exporting at present (including some of the newest enterprises);
  • 73% are looking for further growth. Most makers have utilised support from local authorities, the Scottish Enterprise Network, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Arts Council. The most useful support mechanisms were found to be 'start-up' business grants, specialist retail outlets and craft exhibitions, and promotional fairs and publications, followed by commissions, skills-building, and international contacts and exchanges. However, 60% of crafts businesses indicated a desire for a central information resource', incorporating a Scottish makers’ database and website, and financial support for capital equipment. Further information is available online at: