Boosting Scotland's exports

First Minister stresses importance of international links.

Efforts are being stepped up to help Scottish companies increase their exports following Brexit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told business leaders and trade experts it was more important than ever for Scotland to strengthen its ties with other nations.

In a keynote speech at the CBI’s International Trade conference in Edinburgh, the First Minister detailed initiatives being taken to help meet the Scottish Government’s 10 year target of increasing exports from 20 per cent to 25 per cent of Scotland’s GDP.

These include:

  • expanding the GlobalScot network of people making contacts and identifying opportunities in international markets from 600 to 2000, including doubling the number in Europe from 250 to 500 by the end of 2020
  • by the end of March 2020 Scottish Development International (SDI) will have in place a further 12  specialists focusing on international markets that offer the greatest opportunities for export growth
  • continuing to expand the FM Export Challenge programme by arranging 40 new mentorships – under which existing exporters advise other businesses – by April 2020
  • an SDI trade specialist has  been allocated to each one of about 1,200 companies identified as being key to achieving the Scottish Government’s export target

The First Minister said:

“Brexit threatens to be hugely damaging to Scotland’s economy and presents a particular challenge to exporters as we are taken out of the world’s biggest single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market.

“Short of continued EU or single market membership, the Scottish Government is continuing to argue for close alignment with the EU, as that would provide the best access to European markets, but we cannot predict what will happen.

“What I can guarantee is that the Scottish Government will strengthen our international ties and an important part of that involves encouraging more businesses to export. We cannot wait for the confusion surrounding the UK Government’s Brexit negotiations to clear before taking action to protect Scottish businesses and jobs.

“Our aim is to ensure businesses receive the support and expertise they need. As well as the initiatives I have outlined today, our enterprise agencies are expanding to meet exporters’ needs. We are also supporting the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to deliver around 35 trade missions this year and working closely with the CBI and others to help drive the FM Export Challenge.

“Boosting our exports will be good for productivity, good for the balance of trade and good for our quality of life. I want to see a strong Scottish economy built on successful, internationally competitive businesses.”


 Last year the Scottish Government published ‘A Trading Nation’ growth plan, setting the target of increasing international exports from 20 per cent to 25 per cent of GDP over 10 years. This would increase GDP by approximately £3.5 billion, support 17,500 jobs and increase the tax take by about £500 million a year. The plan is backed by £20 million additional investment.

The FM Export Challenge will invest £2 million to help 50 exporters per year increase international activity. It will also create 100 business-to-business peer mentorships for new exporters each year.


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