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Why Scotland must not fail the next generation of entrepreneurs

Scotland could be at risk of missing out on vital growth, to be delivered by the next generation of entrepreneurs unless action is taken, warns Barclays as new research is published.

Barclays Business Banking found that nearly half (49%) of Scottish school children aged 8-16 want to launch their own business when they grow up1 - contrary to the myth that young people just want to be celebrities or sports stars. This is higher than the UK national average of 42%. 

Estimates show that if this entrepreneurial spirit is nurtured, by 2025 the UK could create a future generation of entrepreneurs – almost 100,000 new businesses that would contribute an extra £23.3 billion to the UK economy and create 400,000 new jobs2.

Yet analysis reveals that the proportion of UK start-ups run by entrepreneurs aged 25 and under in 2016 was just 6%3. This is lower than any other age category of start-up owners, demonstrating a critical gap between ambition and the number of start-ups run by young people. 

Barriers to entrepreneurship

Despite great ambition, a third (37%) of Scottish school children don’t actually know what an ‘entrepreneur’ is, confusing the term for a ‘French man’, a ‘magician’, or a ‘circus man’. What’s more, Scottish school children believe that there are significant barriers to becoming an entrepreneur and you need certain qualities to succeed, including: 

  • Being able to take risks (37%)
  • Having luck on your side (22%)
  • Having family connections (12%) 

Furthermore, a tenth (12%) think you need to be an adult to start your own business and 8% think you need to do well at school but just 4% of Scottish schoolchildren think it’s only open to rich people compared to a tenth (11%) UK wide. 

The Silicon Playground

Of the children who want to start a business when they grow up, digital businesses are the most popular sector of interest. Over a fifth (22%) of UK children say they want to start a digital business, citing vlogging, app building or video game design as examples. The research also demonstrates the future business skills this generation already holds; more than half (59%) of Scottish 8-16 year olds count blogging amongst their digital skills and 35% can code. A quarter (27%) can build apps and almost a third (29%) say they can build websites. 

Without direct investment in education to help nurture and develop these skills and to remove barriers to entrepreneurship, the UK could lag behind other countries as a breeding ground for young business starters of the future. With this in mind, Barclays has created tailored educational content to help young people develop ‘21st Century Skills’ through its LifeSkills4 programme. LifeSkills created by Barclays teaches 11-24 year olds vital skills needed in the world of business, while the bank runs events for younger children through its regional Eagle Labs help to map out ambitions from a young age. 

Stuart Brown, Head of SME Scotland at Barclays, commented: “Today’s children are demonstrating new skills that have the potential to disrupt and innovate business and it’s no surprise that Scotland, with its rich history of innovation, has a generation of ambitious entrepreneurs waiting in the wings. However, something is going wrong as this passion from the younger population is not translating into numbers of start-ups run by those aged 25 and under. If we want this talent and ambition to flourish, we all need to encourage children who should have access to the right tools and resources to convert their dreams into the businesses of the future. We’re calling on the rest of the industry and government to get behind the next generation of entrepreneurs.” 

Julie Lancastle, Aberdeen Accelerator Manager at Elevator, an organisation that delivers business gateaway support to entrepreneurs, commented on the ongoing support provided by Barclays: “The support our young founders are given by the Barclays team makes a real difference to the founders’ business acceleration. Through a series of 1:1’s, hot desking surgery sessions, network introductions and cybercrime insights, Barclays position themselves as a trusted supporter and our founders really appreciate the role they play.”

In 2014, the Youth Employment Action Group recommended that youth enterprise should form a key component of employment-focused training. As a result, the Youth Enterprise Group was formed, consisting of young entrepreneurs who consulted with and heard evidence from key stakeholders.
Click here to view the findings.

1 Opinium Research polled 602 school children aged 8-16 between 20 and 27 April 2017
2 Development Economics, June 2017
3 Barclays analysis found that 6.6% of start-up owners in 2016 were 25 years or under
4 For more information on LifeSkills created by Barclays, visit


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