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Scottish Annual Business Statistics and Businesses in Scotland: Key Differences

Scottish Annual Business Statistics (SABS) and Businesses in Scotland (formerly Scottish Corporate Sector Statistics) are two statistical publications produced by the Business & Enterprise Statistics branch of the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser. More detailed information on both publications is available on the Data Sources, Suitability & Uses section of our website or within the publications themselves. Some of the information provided in each of the publications appears to be similar, therefore the purpose of the following table is to explain the key differences between them and when each should be used.

This information is also available in PDF format.

Summary of Key Differences

  Scottish Annual Business Statistics (SABS) Businesses in Scotland
When to Use

When require financial variables such as Turnover, approximate Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices and Total Purchases for specific detailed industry sectors.

When require employment data consistent with other SABS financial variables in order to calculate consistent "per employment" totals (e.g. GVA per Head).

When interested in financial variables by business level characteristics, such as location (e.g. local authority area of business site) or business ownership for individual industry sectors.

For obtaining information about the number of enterprises1 operating in Scotland - including businesses registered for VAT &/or PAYE and an estimate of businesses that are unregistered.

For breaking down the count of enterprises (business stock) by employee size bands, industry sector, enterprise base, enterprise ownership and local authority area.

To determine what proportion of employment/turnover generated in the economy can be attributed to small/medium/large businesses.

Main Advantages

Financial and employment figures are consistent (when calculating productivity and other per Head measures).

Underlying Annual Business Survey (ABS) database held at individual local unit level, which facilitates non-standard analyses e.g. approximate GVA at basic prices for specific sectors and geographies.

Consistent with UK and other regional break-downs.

Covers whole economy.

Database held at individual enterprise and local unit2 level (which facilitates non-standard analyses, looking at firm level trends, links between local unit and enterprises, etc).

Only estimate published for the number of enterprises operating in Scotland - regardless of where that enterprise is based.


Main Drawbacks

Does not cover whole economy (coverage excludes the financial sector & parts of agriculture and parts of the public sector).

Time lag before data are available (currently around 18 months).

Sampling error could be high for some estimates - especially for some sectors within small geographical areas.

Employment and turnover do not relate to a single point in time and can be out of date for some small firms.  For this reason, it is not advisable to compare employment and turnover estimates over time.

The unregistered enterprise estimate cannot be broken down by geographical area.

Agricultural data less reliable than other sectors.

1. An enterprise is the term used to refer to a company or business.

2. A local unit refers to each individual business site - e.g. shop, factory, restaurant, plant - that is part of an enterprise.

Alternative National Statistics sources of GVA

We strongly advise against quoting overall growth rates associated with Annual Business Survey (ABS) given that significant sectors of the economy are not included and the results have not been balanced with other datasets.

The Quarterly Gross Domestic Product index is the Scottish Government's preferred source for measuring real (inflation-adjusted) GVA change over time – for the Scottish economy as a whole and for broad sectors of the Scottish economy.

The Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (QNAS) published data series, which incorporates the National Accounting adjustments, is the Scottish Government’s preferred source for current price (non-inflation-adjusted) GVA change over time - for the Scottish economy as a whole and for broad sectors of the Scottish economy.

Cash value GVA at a regional and broad sector level is also published via the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Regional Accounts Data. Key reasons for differences between the ONS regional accounts GVA estimates and the ABS GVA estimates are:

  • ONS Regional GVA is measured using the income approach, whereas ABS GVA is measured using the production approach.
  • Regional accounts data are revised all the way back whenever the national accounts are revised, unlike ABS.
  • And the regional accounts data cover the whole economy - whereas are the ABS omits some sectors, which will affect some regions and industries more than others.

ONS has published an article on A Comparison between Annual Business Survey and National Accounts Measures of Value Added.
Also, information on the differences between ABS approximate GVA at 'basic prices' and National Accounts/Regional Accounts GVA is available in the ABS Technical Report published by ONS.

Alternative National Statistics
sources of Employment by Industry

If employee / employment jobs data by industry only is required, then the Business Register Employment Survey (BRES) is the preferred source for estimates by industry for regional and sub-regional geographies. Data is released annually in September.