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Economy Economy

Promote Scottish exports around the world

Last updated: 08:13pm 11 December 2019

And as we develop our new trade policies, we will pay particular attention to using the United Kingdom’s muscle to promote Scottish exports around the world.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.78

Our verdict

In 2017, Scottish exports were worth £81.4 billion, the main commercial partner being the rest of the UK, which accounted for £48.9 billion of the total. The largest industries are food and beverages (18% of international exports, most of which is whisky), and financial and insurance activities (13% of total exports). This is a pledge to pay attention to Scotland in the development of new international trade policies.

In October 2017, the government published its Trade White Paper, setting out trade policy for the UK and reaffirming the intention to reflect the needs of the devolved authorities, including Scotland. Following this, the government held two meetings to negotiate Brexit trade strategy with the devolved authorities. However, it was unable to reach an agreement with Scotland. In 2019, the Law Society of Scotland argued that the Government’s Trade White Paper was “too general” and did not establish how it would address specific Scottish issues.

Scottish exports were also mentioned in the 2018 Export Strategy, which indicated that the devolved administration will continue to benefit from previous export finance and support bids. In March 2019, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee published their Scotland, Trade and Brexit report, stating that:

“…there remained more to do to encourage more Scottish business to become exporters. […] Improving both Governments’ trade promotion effort was identified as one way to address this gap…”

Following this, in April 2019, the Department for International Trade announced that the Scottish Chamber of Commerce would represent Scottish businesses on the government’s new Strategic Trade Advisory Group.

Scottish exports did not receive “particular attention” in trade and export policies, and trade promotion was identified as requiring improvement. However, the UK government did demonstrate an intention to work with the Scottish government to promote exports, so we think at the end of its time in office, this policy is ‘in progress’.

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