The Big Smoke loses its allure? Should techies come to Scotland?

The Big Smoke loses its allure?

The Big Smoke loses its allure?

Posted on 13th February 2019

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Road to Scotland pic

The noblest sight a Scotchman sees,”, said Dr Johnson in the late eighteenth century, “is the high road that leads him to England.”* 

Johnson also said, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”  Clearly, the good Doctor was more than a little biased in terms of the UK’s capital, although to be fair he did at least make the effort (persuaded by James Boswell) to visit Scotland and travel much of the country.

At this point, you may be wondering what you’ve stumbled across. Is this not a tech recruitment blog? What’s all this gibberish about Johnson, Boswell, London and Scotland?

Over the centuries, the prospect of working in London has held great allure.  It’s important to be aware that, even as the UK industrialised in the 19thcentury, with the rise of great centres like Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester, London was still the economic powerhouse of the nation, with the most people and the highest ‘regional’ GDP.  Today, that’s still the case, except that in some people’s view the capital is now a foreign country, as out of step with the rest of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as Londoners believe we are with it.  Yet its pull, especially for the tech industry, has arguably never been greater. That said…

A recent survey by a large, international recruiter, has noted that recruitment in London and the South East generally is slackening.  In the decade since 2007, about 33% of all the jobs created in the UK were in London, which has only c. 12% of the total population. This is now changing, partly as a result of Brexit-related fears, but also because some of the UK’s regions are powering ahead, turning Britain into a “two-speed economy.”  This is evident in graduate recruitment and also in banking and financial services. 

Be-IT is increasingly seeing this in Scotland (and Northern Ireland), with several major financial institutions (HSBC, Barclays) and other large, businesses (FanDuel, BJSS) growing their IT capacity north of the border, attracted by the talent available and also the better quality of life (despite what Dr Johnson might have thought). Despite growing faster than in London, house prices in particular are still far more reasonable than in the Big Smoke, and, despite the recent, much publicised problems of Scotrail, commuting is nothing like the pain (and expense) it is in the South-East of England. 

Let me put it another way: if you’re a techie, unable to afford a one-bedroomed flat in central London and therefore living in Luton, commuting an hour to Shoreditch every day and wondering when you’ll see your husband/wife/kids, there is opportunity aplenty in Scotland. A five bedroomed, detached house, less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow, could be yours for £350K or less, and the views from your windows will be a lot more impressive than in Luton (sorry Luton, but they are!).  Perhaps today, Dr Johnson would reframe his quote to say, “the most exciting sight an English IT professional sees, is the main road to Scotland?”  

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT

* He did really say “Scotchman” – it was a long time ago.

Posted in Opinion, Recruitment News


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