British companies have revealed that problems recruiting qualified staff are causing more boardroom headaches than either the threat of terror attacks or bird flu.
The survey by Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets reveals that one-third of firms say the skills gap is their biggest single concern, with al-Qaida strikes or deadly avian influenza outbreaks being cited by only four per cent of businesses each.
Of the 2,200 UK companies with a turnover of more than £1 million who responded to the bank, 48 per cent said they had experienced difficulties in recruiting qualified workers.
In addition, one fifth revealed they had encountered the same labour problem with unskilled employees.
The situation appears more acute in Scotland, with 45 per cent of companies north of the border highlighting the lack of quality staff as the biggest threat to their business interests.
Manus Fullerton, director of corporate and business banking, Lloyds TSB Scotland, said: "All the signs are that the skills gap is deteriorating, putting additional strains on the management of Scottish businesses as they try and attract talent ahead of overseas competition."
Today's survey also claims that a third of businesses are planning to offer above-inflation pay rises to tempt in suitable workers, with wage pressures the most pronounced in Scotland and London.
"This is having a knock-on effect on salaries as employers have to pay more to keep staff, at a time when escalating energy prices are already stretching the purse strings for most Scottish businesses. It's a sensible time for managers to focus on their people management as well as their financial management," added Mr Fullerton.