Scotland set for 5G boost

IT has been at the centre of a series of global conspiracy theories and in some places masts have even been set on fire, but the world’s growing 5G network is also hailed as helping create critical connections between individuals, businesses, families and countries during some of the most difficult moments of lockdown. Against a backdrop of a wide uptake of online activity, the Scotland 5G Centre is set to accelerate its connectivity push for rural and urban areas and is poised to access coronavirus cash to help set up a raft of projects. Paul Coffey, chief executive of the organisation which was created last October to boost the adoption of 5G and realise its “economic and societal” potential, is the subject of this week’s Monday Interview.

In Mark Williamson’s SME focus this week, Mark Robbie of Robbie Fluid Engineering of Bathgate, says: “People call us when something goes wrong. It could be a concrete mixer truck that has stopped working with a full load of wet cement to a snow plough stuck in the snow, or a ship held up in port. Our clients range from family businesses to multinationals and very often we have to work out solutions from the ground up.”

In this week’s Business Voices, Paul Sheerin, chief executive of Scottish Engineering, says: “You know that things are not good when the UK Chancellor dispenses with any attempt at political spin and polish to bluntly describe the ‘unprecedented’ impact our economy faces, before adding the most obvious statement of 2020 that ‘not absolutely everybody can and will be able to go back to the job they had’. No kidding.” The full articles will appear in The Herald business section print and online editions on Monday.

Business Week: Anger as owner of popular Glasgow restaurant rejected in Covid grant bid | Tidal energy pioneer hails ‘hugely successful’ turbine trials | It’s B&B&B: bed and breakfast and butler service Also this week, housebuilder Persimmon is set to post lower profits and housing revenues after completions tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said last month that sales were impacted over the first six months of the year but shareholders are now awaiting the resulting damage to the firm’s profitability.

Persimmon will reveal how the virus, which resulted in the closure of construction sites and sales offices, weighed down on profits during the period when it announces its latest figures on Tuesday August 18. Analysts have predicted “a drop in profits of some 30%”, according to Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. It will leave recently appointed chief, Dean Finch, with a major challenge as he looks to put the company back on the path to profit growth.

In July, it said housing revenues for the year were expected to have fallen by 33% to GBP1.1 billion for the year to June 30. It said this will have been driven by a slump in completions caused by the virus, as it completed 4,900 sales, compared with 7,584 in the same period in 2019. The group’s outlook and update on trading since the end of June will also be important for investors keen to understand the current fast-moving environment.

William Ryder, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the Nationwide and Halifax house price indices both reported rising prices in July, “which bodes well” for Persimmon. He said: “We’ve said for some time that the housebuilding sector will stand or fall with the economy and so far the sector has held up, but the next few months will be crucial. “The recovery could be beset by a second wave of coronavirus infections, the end of the furlough scheme or some other unfortunate development.”

The update will also come two weeks after the Housing Secretary unveiled sweeping reforms to the current planning system.

The new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal”, with a “permission in principle” approach that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working.

It is expected to bolster housebuilders by speeding up the current planning process.

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