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Acquisitions in Scotland (2003-21) – Part of Achieving Growth


The aim of this research was to continue to understand the role acquisition plays in the economy.


This research project set out to update previous data analysis of Scotland’s acquisition market, as well as that of a group of European nations, and other nations and regions of the United Kingdom. The analysis enabled a time series from 2003 to 2021 to be built. This was combined with a series of interviews with business leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors on their experience of being part of acquisition.


The findings strengthen the findings of the prior studies in this space. Acquisitions have enabled, and do enable, Scottish businesses to grow, to internationalise, and succeed – but not enough use it. The number of acquisitions of Scottish businesses is in line with other nations, regions, and countries. The number of acquisitions made by Scottish businesses is low, very low in some comparisons. The lack of acquisition activity also leads to a lack of recycling which further hinders growth. Scotland has more young growth businesses using acquisition reflecting their stronger early-stage growth compared to others and continues to be the best nation at keeping inward acquired businesses active in the nation, reflecting success in anchoring businesses and in businesses implementing a successful acquisition strategy. The main, over-riding reason to make acquisitions, and sometimes the only reason, is to achieve growth, corroborating why and how younger Scottish businesses are using acquisition – and doing so successfully – to achieve and sustain growth. It is among older businesses in particular where the challenge lies. Scotland has considerably fewer businesses aged over 10 acquisition active. Not enough consider acquisition as part of a route to growth (or are indeed pursuing a growth strategy). The opportunity lies in stimulating and supporting more to consider and deliver on growth strategies. There is a strong rationale to raise the profile of acquisition, setting out a clear explanation as to how it can drive growth, generate value, and positively impact the business, and signpost to businesses what to consider, and make the most of the experience and knowledge of others. Scotland needs more acquisition, but it also needs the right businesses to consider it. Addressing this starts with driving more growth businesses.


The recommendation is for policymakers and Government to use this evidence to practically embrace the potential of acquisition as a growth tool for businesses in the economy. First, they need to create and support the emergence of more growth and sustained growth businesses, since acquisition is a mechanism through which businesses seek to grow or to sustain their growth performance. It is important the evidence is used to shut down the negative perceptions and narrative that is continued to be allowed to permeate throughout Scotland, and that the evidence in the report is used to consider how raising awareness of its potential, as well as its use, its opportunities can be maximised, and potential pitfalls can be minimised.

Author Scottish Enterprise
Published Year 2022
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses