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A Trading Nation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

When the Scottish Government’s previous export strategy was announced, John Swinney was the finance secretary. Back in those halcyon days, the target was to increase exports by 50 per cent. At the time, I said that that was ambitious, but I was told that I was being too negative and that the target was achievable. There is nothing wrong with ambition, but if the Government wants a target to be anything more than a fantasy, it needs to know what it is doing and to back that action with resources.

It is disappointing to note that the Scottish Government failed to reach that 50 per cent target by 2017 and instead achieved a 35 per cent increase. Exports as a percentage of GDP did not rise and the Fraser of Allander institute observed that export performance has, at best, flatlined since devolution. Does the minister understand why the Government failed to meet the target? I am keen that he should know that, because if he knows why the Government fails, we can be confident that he understands what needs to be done in the future.