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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 Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

That is an issue, but it is not an issue for this debate. I thank Brian Whittle for raising it, but this debate is focused on what we can do to grow exports from Scotland’s businesses.

The work on the exports plan has been a hugely analytical piece of work that has looked into a significant number of data sets over a period of time and at international comparisons to understand what is happening elsewhere. That information is now available online on a sectoral and market basis for businesses to take advantage of.

The work was characterised by a significant amount of co-production. Engagement took place with more than 50 business and sectoral organisations to inform the advice and recommendations that form part of the exports plan. I take this opportunity to thank the business organisations that took part in the process and the team who worked hard over the past seven or eight months to put “A Trading Nation” together. The output of that work is a set of actions and directions that help us understand what Government, its agencies and others need to do to boost Scotland’s export performance to become best in class globally.

“A Trading Nation” looked at a number of strategic choices, and it did not duck the analysis of those when coming to some hard conclusions. The choices involved four different aspects.

First, we looked at the countries that we should export to in order to understand their growth trajectory. We looked at a total of 15 different indicators to analyse and understand not only what the markets of today look like but—this is an important point—what the emerging markets of tomorrow will look like. That led us to a strategy that focuses on a top tier of 15 countries where we will focus our activity and significantly increase our presence. We also have a list of 11 countries where, as part of our tomorrow strategy, we will have a presence in order to understand and monitor what happens there as those economies develop.

Secondly, in order to understand how we can build on Scotland’s great strengths, we looked at sectors such as our food and drink sector, our energy and renewables sector, which is making the transition to low-carbon energy, our fintech and financial services sector, our life sciences sector and our quantum mechanics and space sector. Those are just some of the many sectors in which Scotland has globally recognised strengths. The analysis looked at which of those sectors were truly world class and which markets and countries they should focus on to realise the best opportunities, as well as how Scotland compares with other nations of comparable size with comparable economies, where we do better than they do, where we do less well and what opportunities exist for us to improve.

Thirdly, “A Trading Nation” looked at the profile of businesses in Scotland to understand, through a smart segmentation strategy, which sectors of our business community we should target our efforts on. It identified that, largely, the focus should be on small and medium-sized Scottish businesses that export and have the capacity to do more, as well as Scottish businesses with that capacity that are not yet exporting. Our focus will be on helping those sectors of our business community to realise their full potential. It is worth noting that 74 per cent of the businesses that we are providing with targeted support are small and medium-sized enterprises and that less than half of them are internationally owned.

The fourth strategic choice that we looked at was to do with how we can join the dots in market and make sure that we can take advantage of Scotland’s reputation, our very wide diaspora, the other networks that we enjoy and the good will that exists towards Scotland. We want to engage those processes, organisations and others so that we can pull together a strategy in each market that helps Scottish businesses to understand the market situation when they land in country, and to be able to access customers and make the most of the opportunities that exist for them.