Economy growth through exports

Plan to increase the value of exports by 2029.

An ambitious growth plan will aim to increase the value of exports from 20% to 25% of Scotland’s GDP over the next 10 years.

A Trading Nation – a plan for growing Scotland’s exports sets out how the country can add around £3.5 billion to GDP and create 17,500 more jobs.  Achieving this ambition would see international exports almost double from their current value of £32 billion by 2029.

The plan focuses on providing tailored support for companies to further grow their existing exports and enter new markets which will help to focus efforts on activity that will create the greatest impact on the economy.  Wider support will also continue to be provided to businesses beginning their exporting journey.

The plan is backed by £20 million of additional investment over three years.

Launching the export plan at the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Scotland is renowned for its long and proud trading history with our exports increasing in value over the last 20 years to more than £30 billion worldwide.

“Despite this success, exports have remained broadly static as a proportion of the economy which means Scotland is not internationalising at the pace required to keep up with our competitors.

“In the face of the EU exit uncertainty, A Trading Nation gives a clear signal of our ambition to remain an open and progressive nation where our businesses trade in global markets.

“The plan identifies the scope of our potential trading relationships and sets out how we can refocus our efforts on countries, sectors and businesses with the most demand, opportunity and potential.

“This approach could make a vital contribution to our economic growth and prosperity, create jobs and help to deliver the public services that we all value.”

CBI Scotland director, Tracy Black, said:

“Scotland has a proud exporting history, yet we haven’t kept pace with the progress made by other similar sized countries.  CBI Scotland research shows exporting companies are more competitive, innovative and, crucially, more productive – so supporting firms to increase their international focus is vital for Scotland’s economic growth. 

“The Trading Nation strategy represents an important step along this journey and the data-driven approach to identifying priority sectors and markets is hugely welcome.  We also endorse efforts to simplify the exporting landscape, the focus on existing exporters with high potential for international growth and committing to bolstering digital training, advice and resources.  All recommendations outlined in our recent Winning Worldwide report.

“To achieve the ambitious aim of boosting Scottish exports to 25% of our GDP by 2029, we need to ensure that existing resources are used as effectively as possible and to maintain a strong partnership between business, government and other stakeholders.”

Polly Purvis, chief executive ScotlandIS, said:

“We very much welcome this ambitious plan to grow Scotland’s exports. 

“The digital technologies industry already makes a significant contribution to overseas sales, with many of our members selling into global markets particularly in Europe, North America and the Middle East.

“We believe we can grow this substantially, selling products and services across the world, building on our strengths in software development, data science, Fintech and cyber security, helping to turn the government’s aspiration into reality.”


A Trading Nation – a plan for growing Scotland’s exports is the most detailed examination of Scotland’s international export performance ever undertaken by the Scottish Government.

The plan includes commitments to:

  • increase the network of GlobalScot business representatives abroad from 600 to 2,000 people in key markets
  • add up to 15 in-market specialists to the countries that make up more than two thirds of our export opportunities
  • increase the number of trade envoys, potentially from four to 12
  • scale up trade promotion activity with expanded international missions and exhibition programming – with 68 Scottish Development International (SDI) events planned for 2019/20 and up to £2 million for a programme of inward and outward visits delivered by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network
  • improve advice and support for businesses through mentoring under the First Minister’s Export Challenge
  • provide funding for businesses to access qualifications delivered by the Institute of Export 

The Scottish Government invests around £300 million every year on business support through enterprise agencies, with around £85 million to support trade and investment promotion – a further £20 million will be added over three years.

The Scottish Government will deliver A Trading Nation in partnership with our enterprise and skills agencies, Chambers of Commerce, business and industry organisations, universities and their alumni, the Department for International Trade and individual businesses themselves.

The evidence showed that Scotland’s top sectors account for 84% of our export value – the plan will therefore increase support across those areas  - Food and Drink; Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing;  Life and Chemical Science; Technology, Digital and Media, Financial and Business Services and Energy.

Resources will be focused mainly on 15 countries identified as a priority, to increase exports in the most efficient way, and will be kept under review as the outcome of Brexit becomes clearer.


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