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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 Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

I refer the public to my entry in the register of interests.

“A Trading Nation” is a substantial piece of work in a comprehensive format that is easily understood and which points the way forward for Scotland to improve its economic future through increased exports. The document contains everything from comparisons with the export portfolios of similar-sized countries and recent improvements to their export performance, to in-depth analysis of Scotland’s exports, current market shares and trading partner details.

This comprehensive and well-informed approach will undoubtedly lead to better decisions by both the Government and the wider business community in Scotland, and it can only result in a more expansive and inclusive attitude towards increasing our export base and economic growth. Compare this positive Scottish business approach to the disaster of Brexit and what it is already doing to business confidence throughout the UK—that is before there has been any final resolution, and it will certainly get worse while there remains the potential of a no-deal exit.

The Government’s proposal to facilitate and encourage an increased number of new and smaller businesses to become involved in export markets is particularly encouraging. When we realise that only 11,000 of the 340,000 businesses in Scotland export, and that 500 of those account for 80 per cent of Scotland’s exports, we further realise the huge potential that is as yet untapped. However, it should be noted that a considerable number of Scottish businesses, such as mine, are involved in the supply chain for both manufacturing and exporting. Products from my business find their way to almost every single country in the world, and I can assure the chamber that we ain’t a giant business.

It is encouraging that, with the right plan and economic policy, Scotland can emulate the export performance of similar-sized countries. Currently, Scotland exports 20 per cent of its GDP. In Norway, the figure is 35 per cent; in Finland, it is 39 per cent; and in Denmark, it is 55 per cent. Of course, those are all independent countries. As a first step, the target of exporting 25 per cent of Scottish GDP by 2029 should be achievable with the initiatives that are contained in “A Trading Nation” and successive commitments from future Scottish Governments. The potential improvement from exporting 25 per cent of GDP by 2029 is enormous—it would secure an additional £3.5 billion for GDP annually and generate 17,500 jobs in the Scottish business community.

The diversity of our export range and business expertise is also to Scotland’s advantage in areas from engineering and advanced manufacturing to food and drink, technology, digital and media, energy, financial and business services, chemical sciences, life sciences—an enormous sector—and lots more. That is all before we consider the knock-on economic effects of tourism and education, both of which are in the ascendancy.

The expansion of the global Scot network from 600 to 2,000 worldwide is pleasing, with 500 in Europe by 2020 to promote Scotland the brand—a brand that already has traction throughout the world. Like similar countries, Scotland exported its people all over the world in past centuries and the proposal to energise business t hrough the Scottish diaspora is an exciting initiative