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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

I refer to the point that I made earlier. We understand that we have challenges and that we did not hit the 50 per cent target. We should also recognise—as I have told the member three times already this afternoon—that Scotland’s exports over the past 10 years have grown by an annual rate of 4.7 per cent, which is higher than the UK average of 4.3 per cent over that time. We have work to do, but we are doing better than any other part of the UK.

Emma Harper has already put Dean Lockhart right on the point about digital support, which is thoroughly covered in section 6.4 of the plan. He talks about us not having any actions, but there are more than 100 individual actions in this export plan that I will be tracking in the weeks and months ahead to make sure that we hit those targets, so please do not accuse us of not having a clear action plan on this—it is very clear and thorough in what it covers.

I will quickly touch on a few business quotes. The CBI says:

“the data-driven approach to identifying priority sectors and markets is hugely welcome and we also endorse efforts to simplify the exporting landscape”.

The Fraser of Allander institute says that it is

“an excellent piece of evidence based policy making”.

ScotlandIS says:

“We very much welcome this ambitious plan to grow Scotland’s exports.” and the Chambers of Commerce says:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s export growth plan. It is a key enabler in boosting Scotland’s export potential and enhancing Scotland’s profile on the international stage.”

All those organisations recognise the work that has gone into this plan and its importance in driving forward Scotland’s export performance.

I do not have time to touch on all our wonderful sectors. Several have been mentioned already, including food and drink. We have our world-beating whisky sector and our food sector is going from strength to strength. There are key strengths in the energy sector, particularly around the transition to low carbon, and in our renewables sector we are genuinely world class. With life sciences and drug discovery, precision medicine and others we are again genuinely world class. Fintech, digital tech and media have already been mentioned.

There is a fabulous space sector that is looking forward to taking a big slice of that world market. In other areas such as quantum technology and nanotechnology, Scotland is genuinely world class, and has huge export opportunities in those markets.

Through the course of my job, I have the pleasure of visiting international markets on Scotland’s behalf. I have made 11 such trips over the last 11 months, and in every market that I go to, Scotland is held in high regard for our skills, technology and products. Countries recognise those and want to trade with us. Almost all those countries in Europe are doing better than we are, however. They are countries of a similar size, with fewer resources and with academic institutions that are not as developed as ours. As Willie Coffey pointed out earlier when he talked about the Irish experience, it is about our ambition. It is about Scotland being strong enough to stand on our own two feet and take full control of our economy, because the difference between us and those countries that are doing so much better is one thing and one thing only: they are independent. They are normal, independent countries that have full control over their economies and economic levers. That is where Scotland is going and that is what will drive our economy forward in the long term.