The latest analysis of the UK’s creative and high-tech economy by NESTA (‘The Geography of the UK’s creative and high tech economies’ ) aims, amongst other things, to apply a more rigorous set of definitions to creative occupations/industries and to develop the distinction set out in their earlier report between the jobs and value added of the creative industries (those industries which have high proportion of creative jobs and e.g deliver creative content directly to the public) and the wider creative economy (which contains lots of creative jobs in non-creative industries). As importantly the report looks at the geographical trends in the creative economy and it’s here where warning signs for Scotland emerge. As we’ve noted before (see june 2014 post) Scotland’s level of creative employment is in the mid range (6.4% of Scotland total employment) of the UK’s nations and regions, above Wales (5.7%) and Northern Ireland (5.3%) but below the South West (7.6%) and Eastern (8.4%) regions and of course London (15.5%) and the South East (10.7%).
The real issue however is that creative employment is, if these figures are accurate, declining in Scotland while it is growing nearly everywhere else, both in the wider creative economy (down 1% in Scotland, up 4.3% across the UK 2011-13) and in the specifically creative industries (down 0.8 % in Scotland while up 5.0% across the UK). And this isn’t, for once, due to the ‘London effect’. The highest growth rates are not in London but in the Eastern (9.3% in Creative Economy, 11.5% in Creative Industries) , West Midlands (8.2% and 11.8% ) and North East regions (56% and 9.8%).
There’s better news from the high-tech economy where Scotland is leading growth at 5.1% compared to the UK average of 2.1% and ahead of even London (4.5%). The NESTA study goes on to look at the intersection of the creative with the high tech economy and the analysis reinforces the divergence of Scotland from the rest of the UK. Whereas in the rest of the UK creative industries are growing faster (4.3%) than high-tech industries (2.1%) in Scotland the opposite is true. At the ‘sub-regional’ level (in Scottish terms = ‘regional’) it comes as no surprise that Glasgow and Edinburgh have higher levels of employment in the creative economy relative to other kinds of jobs. The ‘Location Quotient’ ( the relative proportion of creative jobs in the region where 1.0 would be no different to the national proportion) gives Glasgow and Edinburgh more than 1.2 and the rest of the country less than 1.0 and mostly less than 0.8. (Edinburgh comes out particularly highly (7th in the UK) when creative and high-tech jobs are taken together.)
What does it all mean and why does it matter? Well given employment in the UK creative economy is growing at 4.3% per annum, 3.6 times faster than the UK workforce as a whole (1.2% per annum) Scotland is losing out on almost all of these new jobs, compensated for by doing very well in the high-tech sector (5.1% p.a.) which across the UK is growing at a more modest 2.1%. If we could secure even half the high-tech sector level growth in Scotland’s creative industries – say 2.5% we could add around 4,000 jobs a year.