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The Scottish Conservatives will support all proposals to increase Scottish exports, because our performance is trailing behind the rest of the UK and competitor countries. International exports represent only 20 per cent of our GDP, compared with 30 per cent for the UK economy and higher for competitor countries.
Our export performance in the past decade has failed to meet all the targets set by the Scottish Government—on the scale of £22 billion. If Scottish exports were to reach the levels of the rest of the UK, our economy would be boosted by £16 billion a year. Those figures show that, after 12 years of Scottish National Party Government, Scotland has not realised its potential to become a first-tier trading nation.
To realise that potential, we need a new approach to increasing exports. There are many aspects of the trading nation strategy that have merit and which, if implemented properly, could have a positive impact on the economy. We also recognise the important role that the Confederation of British Industry Scotland has played in helping to formulate the trading nation strategy, particularly its recommendations endorsing efforts to
“simplify the exporting landscape”,
“focus on existing exporters with high potential” to grow their international trade, and commitments to increase digital resources.
However, whatever the merits of the trading nation strategy, the fundamental flaw in the SNP’s approach to international trade is the currency. At the same time—in fact, in the very same week—as announcing a new policy to increase Scotland’s trade, the SNP also announced plans to introduce a new currency for Scotland. Ivan McKee said that we would know the answer to the currency question on the day after independence. The SNP conference passed a motion that it wants to introduce a new currency as soon as practicable. How does the fundamental uncertainty about the future trading currency of Scotland help business to plan?