International exports continue to rise

Majority of growth in exports to EU countries.

Scotland’s international exports (excluding oil and gas) increased by £1.9 billion to £32.4 billion in 2017, the highest annual growth rate (6.2%) since 2011.

The rise, revealed in today’s National Statistics Publication: Export Statistics Scotland (ESS) 2017, was driven by an increase in manufacturing exports, including food and drink, while exports of services also increased.

The majority of growth in 2017 was in exports to EU countries, up 13.3% to £14.9 billion – 46% of international exports in 2017 were to the EU.

Exports to the rest of the UK also increased, up £2.2 billion (4.6%) to £48.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the updated GDP statistics, also published this morning, show that Scotland’s GDP grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, and has increased in every quarter since the start of 2017.

Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said:  

“It’s great news that Scotland’s economy and international exports both continue to grow, which follows last week’s unemployment figures being the lowest on record at 3.6%.

“Our manufacturing sector, including food and drink, is performing particularly well and it is encouraging to see increasing international interest in our service sector. This welcome growth will be supported even further through our Export Growth Plan including substantial investment to maximise the value of Scottish exports.

“GDP has increased in every quarter since the start of 2017 and in annual terms is growing broadly in line with the rest of the UK.

“However, the key risk to Scotland’s economy continues to be the uncertainty associated with Brexit, and in particular the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

“It is vital that the UK Government responds to the vote of the House of Commons on the 29 January and takes immediate and urgent steps to rule out a no-deal Brexit, which threatens to have devastating consequences for our economy, extend the Article 50 process and hold a second referendum on EU membership.”

Other key findings in the ESS publication show:

  • Total international and rest of the UK exports in 2017 (excluding oil and gas) are estimated at £81.4 billion, up £4.1 billion (5.2%) from the previous year.
  • The manufacture of food and beverages continues to be the largest industry for Scotland’s international exports.
  • International exports from the manufacturing sector increased by 10.3%, driven by strong growth in exports of refined petroleum and chemical products (up £915 million, 35.6%) and exports of computer, electronic and optical products (up £550 million, 41.1%).
  • Scottish exports to non-EU countries saw growth of 0.8% in 2017, increasing to £17.6 billion.

In Spring 2019, the Scottish Government will set out a range of actions in its export plan ‘A Trading Nation’ as announced in the 2018 Programme for Government. Backed by £20 million of investment, the new growth plan will help further boost the value of Scotland’s overseas exports by focusing resources and interventions more effectively on the sectors and markets that will have the greatest impact for the Scottish economy.


Scotland’s GDP grew by 0.2% in real terms during the third quarter of 2018, following stronger growth in the first half of the year. On a rolling annual basis (4Q on 4Q), it has grown by 1.5%.

The latest Retail Sales Index statistics were also published this morning and show sales growth in Scotland picked up at the end of 2018. Retail sales grew 0.6% on the quarter in Scotland, compared to a fall of 0.2% across Great Britain as a whole.

The full statistical ESS publication

The full statistical GDP publication

The full statistical RSIS publication


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