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As outlined in the programme for government, we will work to boost the value and range of Scottish products, services and businesses in overseas markets. “A Trading Nation: Our Plan for Growing Scotland’s Exports” will set out how we will achieve our export ambitions, working with industry and other partners, particularly the Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills. The plan, which will be published in spring next year, is underpinned by over £20 million of investment over the next three years.
As part of that work, we will invest £2 million over three years to intensively support 50 high-growth businesses per year to ramp up overseas activity and we will create 100 new business-to-business peer mentorships per year for new exporters. We will also expand the network of in-market specialists to identify untapped potential in overseas markets and to support Scotland’s exporting interests, and we will increase export finance support for Scottish companies that are looking to enter new markets. Those steps will benefit businesses across all parts of Scotland, including the south of Scotland.
At present, it seems that the only support that is available to small and medium-sized enterprises that wish to export is to join the Scottish Enterprise pipeline, which then offers consultancy and market research. However, there appears to be no funding support for SMEs that want to get their products in front of potential customers by, for example, attending trade shows. With the new south of Scotland agency coming on stream, will the minister look at the issue to ensure that funding investment directly supports SMEs to grow their export markets?
As I outlined in my previous answer, there is a big focus on supporting all businesses to increase their exports. We are focusing on 50 high-growth potential businesses per year to help them ramp up their overseas activities. Scottish Development International already works through Scottish Enterprise to significantly support a range of businesses, including through export missions. In 2017, the Scottish Government gave £400,000 of funding to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to launch five local regional export partnership pilots across Scotland, including one in the south of Scotland. Such pilots provide one-to-one support through SDI’s expert advisory service for business and a programme of local export events across the region.