The Scottish Government is deeply concerned by emerging evidence that Brexit is having a severe impact on the ability of Scottish businesses to trade effectively and competitively with the European Union, with lasting consequences for our economy.
Scottish Government ministers remain in regular contact with UK ministers about the economic impact of Brexit and are pressing for urgent support for businesses that are being adversely impacted. Most recently, together with UK Government ministers, I chaired a meeting of the Scottish business growth group, which heard from business, employer and employee representative organisations about the difficulties that are being caused by new trading arrangements and the need for further assistance.
Indeed, just a few hours ago, I had a similar meeting with Michael Gove and business organisations as part of the Brexit meeting series. The Scottish Government will continue to work hard to address problems and blockages where it is in our power to do so.
Has the cabinet secretary noted that the Office for Budget Responsibility suggests that there will be a 4 per cent drop in productivity compared with the position if we had stayed in the European Union and a temporary reduction in the first quarter of this year of some 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product? Is it now absolutely vital that the UK Government provides additional funding to the Scottish Government so that we can support the businesses that the cabinet secretary has just referred to and the workers who are employed in them?
Recent funding for seafood exporters and small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK is welcome, but piecemeal funding can at best provide only a temporary sticking-plaster, considering the sheer scale of the costs and losses that are emerging.
We are making that very clear to the UK Government. The additional funding cannot address the core problem, which lies in the very thin nature of the deal. It is vital that the UK Government listens and responds to what we are telling it.
We hear that imports from France to the UK are down by 13 per cent, imports from Italy are down by 38 per cent and imports from Germany are down by 30 per cent, while exports from the UK to France are down by 20 per cent and exports from the UK to Italy are down by a staggering 70 per cent. It is clear that the UK Government’s trade statistics are, in addition to the statistics that we are hearing from other countries, telling it that there is a problem.
We remain ready to work with the UK Government on solutions. Productive proposals are being put forward. Its refusal to engage ignores the fact that the effects will be long lasting and dangerous for our businesses, our communities and our economy.
Presiding Officer, this is an opportunity for me to say to Stewart Stevenson that he has spoken in the Parliament very sensibly and informatively over many years and in many speeches. He has served his constituents well and has been a real driver for change, particularly on climate change. I thank him and wish him well in his retirement.