Starting Over: Migrant Entrepreneurship in Scotland

Samuel Mwaura, Jonathan Levie, Paul Lassalle, Sarah Drakopoulou Dodd, Stoyan Stoyanov

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Over the last couple of years immigration has been the subject of much scrutiny and public discourse in the UK. However, this debate has largely focused on UK-wide immigration issues, neglecting other dimensions such as the economic, social and cultural contributions of migrant entrepreneurship.
This report, commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, draws on the analysis of statistical data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Small Business Survey (SBS) and the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS), published research, and over 40 interviews with migrant entrepreneurs and key informants to articulate the substantive contributions migrant entrepreneurship makes to Scotland. The report also advances recommendations as to how such contributions could be enhanced further.
This report finds that entrepreneurs who have moved to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK, Europe or the rest of the world have a positive and tangible impact on economies and communities across the country. The economic contribution they make to the Scottish economy is vast.
Immigrant-led SMEs, to highlight one group, generate £13 billion in revenues and 107,000 jobs for the Scottish economy.
By being significantly more likely to have post-graduate qualifications and family business experience, they are more likely to identity business opportunities and start new promising ventures in Scotland. This is true of all migrant entrepreneurs whether they have migrated from England, Estonia or Ethiopia; or located in Scotland’s largest cities or remotest settlements.
The overall picture that emerges from this research is that migration – including overseas immigrants, RUK in-migrants and Scottish returnee emigrants – is associated with skilled, ambitious individuals who are more entrepreneurial than native Scots.
Nevertheless, despite having higher growth expectations and export ambitions, immigrant-led ventures struggle in particular to turn their ambitious intentions into successful and established businesses. They experience erratic growth, low export activity and
no performance advantage. Given the size of the prize on offer, supporting these entrepreneurs to overcome these barriers to growth should be a key priority for the Scottish Government, its enterprise agencies and local government.
The impact of migrant entrepreneurs extends far beyond economics, however. By offering different products and services to consumers in Scotland, they act as a bridge between their home and host cultures. By enabling interactions between people from different cultures and different countries, they enhance integration efforts and cultural understanding and make Scotland a more
attractive place to visit, start a business, study and work. This is true of the African couple running a care home, a Romanian food entrepreneur, an English-French duo running an award-winning hotel, a Chinese tech entrepreneur and many, many more.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Commissioning bodyNational Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Limited FSB
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • migrant entrepreneurs
  • entrepreneurs
  • immigration
  • survey data
  • immigrant-led SMEs


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