Main Menu

FM wants overseas sales to double

10-year plan to tackle Scotland’s flagging exports

Sturgeon at National Economic Forum

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘exports have remained broadly static’ (pic: Terry Murden)


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled a 10-year plan to revive Scotland’s flagging export performance after admitting overseas sales were failing to keep pace with growth in other countries.

A Trading Nation – a plan for growing Scotland’s exports sets out how the country can almost double the value of exports from their current value of £32 billion by 2029.

A £20 million fund will help companies enter new markets that will create the greatest impact on the Scottish economy.

Launching the plan at the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland is renowned for its long and proud trading history with our exports increasing in value over the last 20 years to more than £30 billion.

“Despite this success, exports have remained broadly static as a proportion of the economy which means Scotland is not internationalising at the pace required to keep up with our competitors.

“In the face of the EU exit uncertainty, A Trading Nation gives a clear signal of our ambition to remain an open and progressive nation where our businesses trade in global markets.

“The plan identifies the scope of our potential trading relationships and sets out how we can refocus our efforts on countries, sectors and businesses with the most demand, opportunity and potential.

“This approach could make a vital contribution to our economic growth and prosperity, create jobs and help to deliver the public services that we all value.”

CBI Scotland director, Tracy Black, said: “Scotland has a proud exporting history, yet we haven’t kept pace with the progress made by other similar sized countries. CBI Scotland research shows exporting companies are more competitive, innovative and, crucially, more productive – so supporting firms to increase their international focus is vital for Scotland’s economic growth.

“The Trading Nation strategy represents an important step along this journey and the data-driven approach to identifying priority sectors and markets is hugely welcome.”

Polly Purvis, chief executive ScotlandIS, said: “We very much welcome this ambitious plan to grow Scotland’s exports.

“The digital technologies industry already makes a significant contribution to overseas sales, with many of our members selling into global markets particularly in Europe, North America and the Middle East.

“We believe we can grow this substantially, selling products and services across the world, building on our strengths in software development, data science, Fintech and cyber security, helping to turn the government’s aspiration into reality.”

The plan includes commitments to:

  • increase the network of GlobalScot business representatives abroad from 600 to 2,000 people in key markets
  • add up to 15 in-market specialists to the countries that make up more than two thirds of our export opportunities
  • increase the number of trade envoys, potentially from four to 12
  • scale up trade promotion activity with expanded international missions and exhibition programming – with 68 Scottish Development International (SDI) events planned for 2019/20 and up to £2 million for a programme of inward and outward visits delivered by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network
  • improve advice and support for businesses through mentoring under the First Minister’s Export Challenge
  • provide funding for businesses to access qualifications delivered by the Institute of Export

The Scottish Government invests around £300 million every year on business support through enterprise agencies, with around £85 million to support trade and investment promotion – a further £20 million will be added over three years.

The Scottish Government will deliver A Trading Nation in partnership with enterprise and skills agencies, Chambers of Commerce, business and industry organisations, universities and their alumni, the Department for International Trade and individual businesses themselves.

The evidence showed that Scotland’s top sectors account for 84% of Scotland’s export value – the plan will therefore increase support across those areas: Food and Drink; Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing; Life and Chemical Science; Technology, Digital and Media: Financial and Business Services; and Energy.

Resources will be focused mainly on 15 countries identified as a priority, to increase exports in the most efficient way, and will be kept under review as the outcome of Brexit becomes clearer.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the anti-independence group Scotland in Union, said: “Increasing the value of exports is vital for Scotland’s economy and jobs, which begs the question why the SNP wants to put a barrier up to trade with the rest of the UK.

“Our home market is worth over three times as much for Scotland’s economy as the rest of the European Union, with 60 per cent of export trade with the rest of the UK.

“Scrapping the pound will create extra red tape for businesses and put our economy at risk. So if the SNP is serious about growing exports it will drop the threat of a divisive and unwanted second independence referendum.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Boosting exports should be a priority for the First Minister, but it is difficult to take her seriously on this matter. The SNP government has missed its export target year after year and this comes amid her plans to launch a separate currency and break away from our largest export market – the UK – which will put Scottish exporters at a serious disadvantage.

“Labour will grow exports by developing an industrial strategy to revitalise manufacturing and boost the services sector to ensure high wage, high skill jobs for the future.”

GDP growth

Scotland’s economy grew by 0.3% during the fourth quarter of 2018, according to updated statistics announced today by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

For 2018 as a whole, annual GDP growth was 1.3% compared to 2017, revised down slightly from the first estimate published on 20 March.

During the fourth quarter of 2018, the latest data shows output in the services sector grew by 0.5% and output in the construction sector grew by 0.4%. Output in the production sector fell by 0.8%, mostly due to relatively low levels of electricity production.

Change in gross domestic product (GDP) is the main indicator of economic growth in Scotland. Two estimates of Scotland’s GDP growth are now published each quarter on a faster timetable than previously available. The first estimate for 2019 Quarter 1 will be published on 19 June.

Record stockpiling

Stockpiling of raw materials and finished goods were at record highs among small and medium-sized manufacturers in the three months to April, according to the latest quarterly CBI SME Trends Survey.

In a survey of 252 SME manufacturers, growth in output volumes slowed to its weakest in one-and-a-half years, with production expected to be flat over the coming quarter. Domestic orders were flat over the quarter and export orders grew only slightly. Both are expected to fall over the next three months.

The survey showed that manufacturers raised stocks of raw materials and finished goods at the fastest rates in the survey’s history. Stocks of work in progress were also raised significantly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.