Call to 'prioritise union'
Exports four times bigger within UK than to EU
Scotland’s exports rose in the year before the Brexit vote, but opposition parties have seized on data revealing that trade to the rest of the UK was four times the sum exported to the EU.
Labour and the Tories said the bigger proportion of trade with England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be enough to prove the folly of splitting Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Total exports rose to £28.7bn in 2015, £1bn higher than the previous year.
Economy Secretary Keith Brown described the overall increase as “hugely encouraging” and said the EU market is eight times the size of UK market, “which highlights the importance of remaining in the Single Market.”
However, Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK was worth £49.8bn which dwarfed the £12.3bn exported to the EU. Sales to the EU rose £520m and the to rest of the UK by £2.1bn.
Scottish Conservative Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Once again, the facts are making it clear that our own Union of nations is Scotland’s essential union on which our prosperity depends.
“Europe is a vital market place for us too – which is why we want to see a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU following Brexit.
“But these figures show that to prioritise the EU market before our own Union – as the SNP wants – is absurd.
Scottish Labour said the figures demonstrate the importance of the UK single market to jobs and the economy, and said the SNP’s threat of a second independence referendum would put the economy at risk.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Tory plans for a hard Brexit risk damaging Scotland’s economy – but the SNP government’s own figures show that independence would be considerably worse.
“These figures confirm that the UK single market is four times more important to Scottish jobs and the economy than the EU single market.”
Businesses were critical of the Scottish Government for failing to achieve targets. Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of SCC, said the statistics “highlight causes for concern”.
She said: “The Scottish Government’s export growth target was to achieve a 50% increase in international exports between 2010 and 2015.
“By 2015, only 21.5% growth has been achieved – well short of the Government’s plans. More concerning is the 9.6% fall in international exports by small business between 2014 and 2015, indicating that Scotland is failing to spread the opportunities of internationalisation widely enough throughout our economy.”
> New research shows that the European single market is vital for Scottish businesses, the Federation of Small Businesses has said.
The new research, based on three surveys of more than 4,000 firms across the UK, shows that one in three (32%) smaller businesses in the UK are involved in overseas trade as an exporter and/or importer – and that 92% of firms which export trade with the EU single market.
The study also found that one-third (29%) of UK exporting small firms expect their export volumes to decline as a result of Brexit – and that one in four (26%) Scottish smaller employers have a non-UK EU citizen as part of their staff team.