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Scot-Buzz editor Bill Jamieson says Scotland’s capital city looks to be suffering a growth stutter - according to latest figures from Edinburgh City Council this week.

Business incorporations are running at half the pace of comparator cities across the UK, start-ups are trailing last year and house sales are reported to have suffered a slow start to the year.

Arguably more worrying is the hiatus in foreign direct investment into the city, with a dearth of new projects in March and job creation from inward capital investment well down on a year ago.

Overall, the council’s monthly Economy Watch Headline Scoreboard shows that of 18 key indicators, seven show a ‘green arrow’ – a rising or improving trend - outnumbered by nine ‘red arrows’ showing a falling or worsening trend.

This is the first time that the scoreboard has shown more downward than upward trends since the recession.

The city’s Economy Watch is not meant to be a detailed statistical reading of economic activity in the capital and, with its monthly update, is subject to capricious and seasonal swings in activity and trends.

This is particularly the case with inward direct investment which by its nature is lumpy and arguably best measured on an annual rather than monthly or quarterly basis.

Nevertheless, if continued, this has to be of concern to the capital as Scotland has rarely enjoyed such global attention as this year, with the Commonwealth Games, Homecoming events and of course the independence referendum. This is not a time to be seeing a faltering in the pace of growth.

Growth indicators included output per resident, planning applications (up 12 per cent on last year), hotel room occupancy, and passenger throughput at Edinburgh Airport.

But the detailed figures also show

  • Business incorporations in the three months to April are up on the previous three months but the growth pace is barely half that of comparator cities across the UK.
  • A total of 173 new business start-ups were supported by Business Gateway in Edinburgh during March, up on February but 36 fewer than the same month last year.
  • House sales in Edinburgh fell from 1,080 to 659 in January, and the overall value of sales dropped to £147 million, down £84 million on the previous month.
  • The council’s FDI Markets database recorded no foreign direct investment projects in Edinburgh during March.
  • Four investment or expansion ‘Foreign and Domestic Investment Activity’ projects were announced in the city in March - one more than the previous month, but five fewer than the same month last year.
  • Over the 12 months to March, FDI projects have been reported as creating a total of 624 jobs in Edinburgh, down on the same period previously.
  • Hotel room occupancy in Edinburgh rose in March, from 69.7 per cent to 72.3 per cent of available rooms. But this is 0.1 percentage points lower than the figure for March 2013 and three per cent lower than the average for comparator cities.
  • A total of 71.7 per cent of all working age Edinburgh residents were in employment during Q4 2013. This rate is 1.1 percentage points lower than the same period in 2012.

It would be wrong to read too much into one month’s patchy data from the council - though the previous month’s Economy Watch was hardly buoyant. But a keen eye now needs to be kept on Scotland’s capital city – and particularly its performance against other comparable cities across the UK.