Scotland’s small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector could create up to 40,000 new jobs in the next 12 months, according to new research by Clydesdale Bank.

A recent survey of more than 800 UK SMEs was carried out to determine their business prospects for the year ahead.

Almost half (43 per cent) of Scottish SMEs surveyed planned to add to their workforce in 2014, with those in recruitment mode expecting increased staffing levels by an average of nine per cent this year.

On average, the UK’s 4.9 million SMEs expected to recruit 2.9 per cent more staff in 2014, a figure which equates to around 417,000 new jobs across Britain as a whole.

There was positivity within the small business sector with firms with fewer than 50 employees most likely to increase their workforce (63 per cent) in the months ahead.

There was greater caution within the medium-sized business sector with little more than a third (36 per cent) expecting to recruit in 2014.

Scott McKerracher, regional director for business and private banking at Clydesdale Bank East of Scotland, said: “As the UK economic outlook continues to improve, we are starting to see a positive impact on recruitment plans.

“Increasing staff numbers can help businesses to boost productivity and competitiveness, and allow expansion into new markets as capacity grows. Creating new jobs is also good for the economy as a whole.

“While our research suggests that many businesses are becoming more confident about investing in their future, it is important that we recognise there remain considerable challenges to growth.

“Access to funding is crucial to achieving growth aspirations. We want UK businesses to know that our door is open to well managed businesses with strong growth plans.

“SMEs are crucial to the UK economy and its emerging recovery and we will continue to support them in 2014.”