Scotland’s tech sector faces Brexit challenge over people, regulation, and money

Scotland’s technology sector faces the same issues – of people, regulation, and money – as a consequence of Brexit as other industries, said Michael Russell, the minister responsible for negotiating on behalf of the Scottish Government.

“You have a large number of EU nationals involved in the tech sector,” he said, “and while no-one is saying they will be forced to leave, [working here] is not as attractive as it was. Like most sectors, there is competition for talented people and there are other places that will be more attractive.”

Russell said that regulatory concerns are emerging, around issues such as data exchange agreements and the UK’s place in the single digital market. In terms of funding, Scotland had benefitted hugely from European initiatives such as Horizon 2020.

The minister was speaking this evening at an event hosted by the technology trade body, ScotlandIS, and hosted by Edinburgh recruitment firm Bright Purple Resourcing.

He said that, one year on from the beginning of Brexit negotiations, we are no clearer on what the outcome will be: “Outcomes are incredibly difficult to predict. What started as grand battle for soul of the United Kingdom has descended into a leadership battle for the direction of the Tory party.” He added: “There could well be another general election before Christmas.”

Asked if the Scottish Government had detected a decline in inward investment, or expressions of interest, Russell said: “We haven’t seen a fall-off, but we might.”

The minister outlined the work of the Scottish Government to influence the outcome of any deal and said it was eager to engage with businesses on how best to position their operations in the event of a hard Brexit.

“We will continue to argue our case, we encourage people to analyse what they can do, for example in terms of supporting staff to stay and, ultimately, it is important for Scotland to continue to engage with the EU with a view to re-entering at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Picture: Michael Russell at the launch last October of a report on the business impacts of Brexit.