Vince Cable says 90% of angel investment is in Scotland. WTF?!

Vince Cable made an interesting comment at today’s entertaining Real Business Entrepreneurs’ Summit:

“90% 0f angel investment is in Scotland.”

Vince Cable is the business secretary and is in charge of a lot of things that entrepreneurs care about. It is deeply shocking that someone in such a position could come up with such nonsense – maybe he has been spending too much time talking to the SNP or maybe the government just doesn’t have a clue and is making policy on the back of  nonsense disguised as data. Whatever the reason, it scares me that someone in such an important position of authority and influence can be making decisions of the back of utterly ridiculous data.

So how is government policy being formed?


Thank God Luke Johnston was there to call bullshit in the way that only he can although Vince Cable certainly didn’t seem to accept that he might be wrong.

Luke Johnston

Just for the record, the most recent data  available for angel investment, based on EIS Claims submitted to HMRC of £503m and only provisional figures for 08/09 claims were:

  • Scotland –  £32m
  • England –  £459
  • Wales –  £8m
  • Northern Ireland –  £4m

That means Scotland is about 6%.

Get the full data set in pdf format here: Note the most recent information available from government sources is provisional data from 2008-09! Maybe Vince has access to more up to date information than us, in which case, it would be great if he could share it. If his numbers are true, every train and plane to Glasgow and Edinburgh will be packed for months. Of course, not all angel investment is EIS but this seems to be a much more likely balance based on anecdotal evidence too.

Come on! If a government wants to support entrepreneurs, can we please have some evidence that they might have a clue that they know what they are talking about?

I don’t think Vince Cable will be speaking at the BLN Growth Forum, 5th July 2011.


  • Making it big – targeting big markets and maintaining your lead.
  • Successful sales– making profitable sales a core goal. How to sell against market leaders.
  • Putting people first – creating a culture to attract and retain the people you need.
  • Growth strategies – maximising value from startup to IPO and beyond.


  • Jonathan Milner, Founder & CEO, Abcam
  • Warren East, CEO, ARM
  • Neil Gaydon, CEO, PACE plc
  • Stuart Miller, CEO, ByBox
  • Mo Bulbrook, Head of International, Cheapflights Media
  • Tim Weller, CEO, Incisive Media
  • Mary Turner, CEO, AlertMe
  • Martin Leuw, NED, IRIS Software Group
  • Mark Gerhard, CEO, Jagex Games Studio
  • Ariel Eckstein, Managing Director EMEA, LinkedIn
  • Peter Bauer, CEO, Mimecast
  • Nigel Payne, Director and Prev CEO, Sporting Bet plc
  • Andy Leaver, VP EMEA, Workday


For more information, the full agenda, all the stuff you need to know, and to reserve your place.


7 responses to “Vince Cable says 90% of angel investment is in Scotland. WTF?!”

  1. Agree totally Mark.

    Another good source of analysis, wider than EIS figures, is the “Annual Report On The Business Angel Market In The United Kingdom : 2008/09” by Colin Mason and Richard Harrison.–research.aspx

    Most business angels (and most of their investment activity) are invisible and so virtually impossible to identify and track over time. Our ability to discern investment activity on a systematic comparative longitudinal basis is therefore restricted to the visible market – angel networks and other portals (such as business angel syndicates) through which angel investment is channelled. The analysis reported in this Chapter is based on responses from 20 of the 24 networks that are members of the British Business Angels Association. In 2008/09 a total of 233 businesses raised a total of £44.9m from investors registered with these networks. A total of 590 investors participated in these investments. The average (mean) investment was £192,634 and involved 2.5 investors. Investors associated with LINC Scotland invested £17.9m in 74 deals. Thus, in the UK as a whole £62.8m was invested by angel investors registered with BBAA members or with LINC Scotland in 2008/09.


    Cable accused of gaffe on data

    By Jonathan Moules

    Published: May 27 2011 17:53 | Last updated: May 27 2011 17:53

    Concerns have been raised about Vince Cable’s grasp of the issues facing entrepreneurs after he told a business conference that 90 per cent of British angel funding was made in Scotland.

    The business secretary’s error, made during a speech at the Investec Entrepreneurs’ Summit, sponsored by the CBI and Real Business magazine, sparked gasps of astonishment from the audience of business owners.

    Luke Johnson, chairman of Risk Capital Partners, who joined Mr Cable for a panel discussion immediately afterwards, expressed amazement that a cabinet minister could state such obviously incorrect points from a public platform.

    “You are just wrong,” he told the business secretary, although Mr Cable did not respond.

    Mark Littlewood, a Cambridge-based entrepreneur, who was among the delegates, said: “It doesn’t seem to represent any version of reality.

    “It worries me because it affects people’s confidence that senior people seem to be making policy decisions off the back of what must be strange data.”

    The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was also unable to explain the claims of its political head. “The only official research we have is from Scottish Enterprise in 2008, which showed that business angels were involved in 70 per cent of private equity deals in Scotland,” a spokesman said – before adding that even that was a different figure to the one quoted by Mr Cable.

  3. John Samuelsson says:

    Vince Cable is a minister who seems spectacularly out of control of his brief. This is not the first time this week he has got confused over Scotland.

    According to the BBC:

    Mr Cable was asked whether Scots should be free to set their own level of corporation tax.

    He replied: “I think the logic of that is irresistible, if you have a devolved system.

    “If you want power, then you have to have the responsibility, and the responsibility goes with making fiscal choices, and fiscal choices involve not just spending a block grant, which is what happens at the moment, but making decisions on how to raise revenue.”

    Sources close to the business secretary later admitted he had been “slightly unclear” and released a statement confirming he did support the Scotland Bill.

    “It is a far-reaching devolution of fiscal powers that will empower the Scottish Parliament and make it more accountable to the Scottish people,” Mr Cable said.

    All very comical and everything but the guy is supposed to be in charge of getting Business back on its feet. The only person in that role who was less suited to it was John Prescott.

    Is he badly briefed? Does he listen to what he is told? Has he lost it, if he ever had it?

    Why do we tolerate such incompetence from politicians?

    If he was a businessman, he would have been retired to Chairmans’ Corner. If he was a horse, he would have been shot.

  4. Richard Martin says:

    To be fair to Vince Cable, he will have been given this information by his team at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. They will have dredged it out of some departmental data somewhere.

    Ministers are only as competent as the civil servants that support them.

  5. Poor Vince. He was Chief Economist of Shell.

    But his response to challenged directly on his quote that 90% of angel investment is in Scotland was:

    “The issue isn’t the numbers, but what we do to stimulate it. The Budget already made good changes to the EIS system, but we’re still open to suggestions on how to get investment flying.”

    This is really sad. Unless you know the current state of affairs, how the hell do you expect to manage it?

  6. Brian Turpin says:

    Maybe he got a bit confused. At Shell, 90% of the UK’s oil might come from Scotland, or something.

    I guess is you just want to spout platitiudes, the actual numbers don’t really matter though.

  7. I’m not sure that the remark justifies some of the rather hot-headed comments. I’ve heard a fair sprinkling of factual nonsense from just about every senior businessman I’ve met. Anyone at that level has to assimilate vast swathes of information, and sometimes they’ll make mistakes.

    It makes a good headline, particularly against a minister generally held to be intellectually above his peers, but just calling out “you are wrong” is not constructive. Has Luke Johnston followed up with his justification data, so that the Business Secretary and his team of advisers can improve their knowledge?

    Some years ago, a newish Environment Secretary, John Selwyn-Gummer very publicly muddled up ozone depletion and global warming, and received similar ridicule in the press. Yet he went on to become internationally well respected for his work in the field, recognized for developing the UK’s reputation in this field.

    It’s a good thing that a London based cabinet minister is starting to be concerned about VC investment north of the border. Perhaps a better response would have been “There but for the grace of God go I”?