Scotland has the potential to create 70,000 jobs in digital technology by 2020 if connectivity, skills and research receive sufficient investment, according to a new report.

The study by ScotlandIS, the Scottish trade body for the IT industry, found strong growth and confidence among the country's digital and tech companies in 2015 and the year ahead.

More than two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they achieved sales growth last year, and a quarter reported turnover growth of 20% or more. The majority (81%) of tech firms expect to see sales continue to rise in 2016 and 70% are optimistic about the year.

Polly Purvis, CEO of ScotlandIS, said: “Our industry has experienced exceptional growth in recent years and 84,000 people are now employed in digital technologies roles across Scotland. It’s really positive to see that so many of our members are expecting sales growth in 2016 and the increase in the number of companies doing business overseas is particularly encouraging.”

The study also found that two-thirds are planning to increase their workforce this year, with software and web development the most desired skills followed by project management, sales and marketing.

Ms Purvis said: “2015 was an exceptional year in terms of demand for new staff and demand continues to outstrip supply. Most of our members report difficulties in finding the staff they need, so we must continue efforts to develop a strong and sustainable talent pipeline.

“Scotland has the potential to create 70,000 new digital technologies jobs over the next five years but investment in connectivity, skills, research and to provide growth capital will be needed to ensure we can take advantage of global and domestic opportunities.”

2015 also proved to be strong year for exports in the Scottish digital industry. Last year, 60% of companies surveyed said they were selling their products or services overseas. The mid-sized market was particularly successful, with the proportion of businesses exporting rising from 49% to 70%. And nearly nine in 10 of those expect to see sales overseas grow this year.