Guest blog: Africa – Reflections on the Coronavirus pandemic

Roger Mullin, Director of Momentous Change, Honorary Professor (University of Stirling) member of the Scotland Africa Business Association.


On 13 May 2020, the first case of Covid19 was identified in Lesotho, making it the last of Africa’s 54 countries to declare the presence of the virus. Somewhat surprisingly, Lesotho had already gone into lockdown on 29 March and had actually started loosening lockdown on 6 May.

Like the vast majority African countries, it seems to have shaped its response in light of experiences elsewhere such as in Europe, but not wishing to wait for cases to develop before acting.

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May 25, 2020

The economy remains on life support, but its pulse is still beating – latest real time indicators of the Scottish economy

The fight against the coronavirus is continuing to take its toll on economic activity in Scotland. Official data capturing the direct impact of the pandemic on the Scottish economy is beginning to be released (see our article from earlier this week on labour market and Universal Credit data), but at the moment it only covers the first few weeks of the lockdown. In this week’s article we continue to look at some regular and new indicators on business activity/sentiment, the labour market, consumer demand, and prices to provide us with an indication of where we might be heading.

With the First Minister’s announcement yesterday about the easing in lockdown restrictions, there may be changes afoot but these won’t be captured in these statistics given the timing of her statement. However, there may have been some spillover from the Prime Minister’s announcements relating to England on the 10th May and a sense that change was on its way. By all accounts, conditions clearly remain challenging, and will no doubt continue to be so even as we move into the next ‘restart’ phase.

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May 22, 2020

What can the Universal Credit data tell us about local impacts in Scotland?

On Tuesday we saw a glimpse of the impact of the initial shutdown on the labour market and claims to Universal Credit. Because of the nature of the shutdown, it is affecting some sectors more than others and indeed leading to increased demand in some.

Given the different industrial profile across Scotland, we would therefore expect this to translate into a differential impact across Scotland. Because of when data is released, and especially the lag in sub-regional UK being made available, we are seeing different  numbers of people seeking financial support through Universal Credit in different parts of Scotland without being able to delve too far into exactly why. For example, we don’t yet have official data that can tell us what happened to different sectors in Scottish local authorities in at the start of the lockdown.

However, understanding what is happening across Scotland as soon as possible is important as it may give important insight into where particular support needs are, hence these figures are worthy of analysis even if the data can’t be fully explained . This article looks at the changes in the number of people on in Scottish Local Authorities on Universal Credit between March and April 2020 using data released by the DWP.

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May 21, 2020

Today’s labour market and Universal Credit data give us a glimpse of the initial impact of CoVid-19 on Scotland

This morning the ONS released the latest data from the Labour Force Survey. This is the main source for high quality data about what is happening in the labour market in the UK, and the regions and nations.

Today’s data cover the period up to the end of March, and so include the initial period of lockdown in the UK following in late March.

Data from DWP on new claims and new starters onto the main out of work benefit, Universal Credit (UC), were also released this morning. They cover broadly the period to mid-April and give us an indication of those turning to the social security system for support following a drop in their earnings in the first few weeks of the lockdown.

This article provides an overview of what this data tells us so far. Overall, we have seen a fall in employment, hours and pay and this has fed through to Universal Credit claims. As charts later on in this article show, some of the shifts that have happened in these data are unlike anything seen before. Undoubtedly, these figures would have been a lot worse without UK Government schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), but even so, it appears that many households in Scotland are facing a significant financial impact.

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May 19, 2020