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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

Those other countries include Iceland, New Zealand, Slovenia and Korea. We are engaged in considering what other measures there are beyond GDP. That is on the radar, but the problem is that my request to the member to propose an alternative measure revealed that there are none.

I will make one offer. Patrick Harvie will understand, if he has read the report, that there is a section about evaluation frameworks. We are putting in some significant work on that and I am quite happy to engage with the member if he can come forward with some hard measures that we can include in addition to those that we have already proposed.

I am a bit disappointed that the member did not engage on the subject of sectors during the debate, because Scotland has a significant advantage in relation to developing low-carbon and renewables technologies and exporting them internationally. That is a key part of our export strategy.

The member is right that the Parliament voted for fair trade principles and being a Fair Trade nation. Our programme for government covers that. Scotland is a Fair Trade nation and we can all be proud of that.

The Labour amendment mainly focused on foreign direct investment and I should let Rhoda Grant know that, in the next few months, a piece of work on FDI will come along that will go into a lot more detail about our strategy. However, it is fair to say that it is important to recognise that FDI is not just about investment; it is also about bringing in talent, people and technology, and access to international markets. I know of several examples of businesses in Scotland, including some from my constituency, that have been bought internationally, which has allowed them to thrive and prosper. It is very much a mixed picture.

Willie Rennie’s point about anchoring businesses is hugely important. We need to have those businesses and sectors anchored here and our strategy is increasingly focused on building on the expertise that we have in our academic institutions, the skills and technology and the natural resources that we enjoy in Scotland to ensure that we have sectors that have stickability within our economy.

The Labour amendment calls for us to talk to businesses; I can let Rhoda Grant know that I have spoken to more than 100 businesses in Scotland in the past 11 months about export and I will continue to do so. We have engaged with more than 50 sector and other organisations in putting together the export plan, so I have not been slacking on that front.

I want to cover a few of the points that Dean Lockhart raised. I am a bit disappointed; Dean Lockhart should have a better understanding of what this is all about and should have read through the analysis that is in the paper. He talked about priority countries in a reflex reaction of Europe bad and emerging good, without understanding or acknowledging the huge amount of work that has gone into the evidence base to analyse the 15 drivers of where economic growth will come from in terms of Scotland’s exports. I recommend that Dean Lockhart reads the methodology paper and if he has any comments on how those 15 indicators are balanced or anything about the maths that is in there, he must please come and talk to us. Otherwise, he must please stop just throwing up soundbites about Europe bad, emerging good.