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The Scottish Government recognises the critical importance of internationalisation to our economic strategy and to driving sustainable economic growth—inclusive growth—as defined through our economic action plan. We understand the importance of exports to that internationalisation strategy; we also understand that increasing exports drives further innovation in our economy and drives up productivity and the tax revenues that we need as a society to invest in our public services. Increasing exports also creates wider internationalisation and the exchange of ideas and people, and it cements Scotland’s place in the world as a good global citizen promoting sustainable development.
For all those reasons, the export performance of Scotland’s economy is of critical importance. Looking back over the past 10 years, we see that Scotland’s exports have grown by an annual rate of 4.7 per cent. We recognise that that performance is better than that of the United Kingdom over the same period, at 4.3 per cent. However, we also recognise that Scotland can do substantially better. Looking back over the past 20 years, we recognise that Scotland’s exports, as a percentage of gross domestic product—the internationally recognised measure—has been flat at around 20 per cent.
On 1 May, we published “A Trading Nation—a plan for growing Scotland’s exports”, which addresses those issues and looks at what Scotland’s economy can do to increase the proportion of our exports as a percentage of GDP. The plan drills down to understand the hard choices that we have to make. It is important to recognise that it is businesses that export; the Government’s role in that process is to help those businesses realise their full international potential. One of the main purposes of “A Trading Nation” is to help us decide where to focus Government support in that process.
I am looking forward to the debate. I hope that it is consensual and that members will input suggestions about what more we can do to grow Scotland’s exports. It is important to recognise that “A Trading Nation” reflects where we are now and that it will continue to develop and grow—we will add more actions and direction to the plan as more information becomes available.