GDP rises in Q3

Scotland sells more to EU though UK remains biggest market

Derek Mackay

Derek Mackay: UK government must rule out No Deal Brexit (pic: Terry Murden DB Media Services)


Scotland’s exports are growing more rapidly to EU countries, though the rest of the UK remains significantly the biggest market for Scottish goods and services, according to official government data.

Total Scottish exports are estimated at £81.4 billion – a rise of 5.2%. Excluding oil and gas, exports outwith the UK increased by £1.9bn to £32.4bn in 2017, the highest annual growth rate (6.2%) since 2011.

The rise was driven by an increase in the manufacturing sector, including food and drink, while sales of services also increased.

EU countries accounted for most of the growth, up 13.3% to £14.9bn with nearly 46% of exports now going to the bloc.

Exports to the rest of the UK also increased, up £2.2bn (4.6%) to £48.9bn, showing that England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain the biggest market for Scotland.

Meanwhile, the updated GDP statistics, also published this morning, show that Scotland’s GDP grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, and has increased in every quarter since the start of 2017.

Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said: “It’s great news that Scotland’s economy and international exports both continue to grow, which follows last week’s unemployment figures being the lowest on record at 3.6%.

“Our manufacturing sector, including food and drink, is performing particularly well and it is encouraging to see increasing international interest in our service sector.

“This welcome growth will be supported even further through our Export Growth Plan including substantial investment to maximise the value of Scottish exports.

“GDP has increased in every quarter since the start of 2017 and in annual terms is growing broadly in line with the rest of the UK.

“However, the key risk to Scotland’s economy continues to be the uncertainty associated with Brexit, and in particular the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

“It is vital that the UK Government responds to the vote of the House of Commons on the 29 January and takes immediate and urgent steps to rule out a no-deal Brexit, which threatens to have devastating consequences for our economy, extend the Article 50 process and hold a second referendum on EU membership.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “The Scottish Government’s own figures show that our trade with the UK is now worth £34bn more than our trade with all 27 EU countries combined.

“It is absolutely essential for Scotland’s economy that trade within our UK internal market continues unimpeded.

 “Almost every day we hear fresh threats from the First Minister to call a second independence referendum yet these figures show the Union is vitally important for jobs, businesses and prosperity across Scotland.

 “We will not allow the First Minister to put those at risk.”

Other key findings in the ESS publication show:

Total international and rest of the UK exports in 2017 (excluding oil and gas) are estimated at £81.4bn, up £4.1bn (5.2%) from the previous year.

The manufacture of food and beverages continues to be the largest industry for Scotland’s international exports.

International exports from the manufacturing sector increased by 10.3%, driven by strong growth in exports of refined petroleum and chemical products (up £915 million, 35.6%) and exports of computer, electronic and optical products (up £550m, 41.1%).

Scottish exports to non-EU countries saw growth of 0.8% in 2017, increasing to £17.6bn.

In Spring 2019, the Scottish Government will set out a range of actions in its export plan ‘A Trading Nation’ as announced in the 2018 Programme for Government.



Backed by £20m of investment, the new growth plan aims to further boost the value of Scotland’s overseas exports by focusing resources and interventions more effectively on the sectors and markets that will have the greatest impact for the Scottish economy.

Scotland’s GDP grew by 0.2% in real terms during the third quarter of 2018, following stronger growth in the first half of the year. On a rolling annual basis (4Q on 4Q), it has grown by 1.5%.

The latest Retail Sales Index statistics were also published this morning and show sales growth in Scotland picked up at the end of 2018. Retail sales grew 0.6% on the quarter in Scotland, compared to a fall of 0.2% across Great Britain as a whole.

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