About Export Statistics Scotland

Information on export statistics produced by the Scottish Government.

Useful Information

This page contains information which may be useful for understanding the ESS publication. If you have any questions about this content, please contact export.statistics@gov.scot.

ESS provides estimates of Scottish exports at a sector level and for the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government produces a National Statistics publication, Export Statistics Scotland (ESS). ESS estimates the value of Scottish exports at sector level. It includes estimates for goods and service exports. It is also the only source of estimates for exports from Scotland to the rest of the UK.

ESS 2019 was delayed due to the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic and EU exit.

Export Statistics Scotland (ESS) has previously been published at the end of January each year. Statisticians decided to delay the Global Connections Survey (GCS) 2019, which forms the basis of ESS, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and then to allow businesses to focus on preparing for the end of the EU Exit Transition Period. The 2019 publication was published in October 2021.

The delay to ESS 2019 has had a knock-on effect on the timing of ESS 2020 publication. Data collection for GCS 2020 and 2021 is complete and a publication covering data for 2020 and 2021 will be published in 2023.

GCS is the main source of information for the ESS publication.

The main source for the ESS is the Global Connections Survey (GCS). The Scottish Government administers the GCS. The GCS is sent to around 6,000 businesses in Scotland each year. The Scottish Government targets the most export intensive companies for GCS. Other data is then used to enhance the GCS. This includes surveys such as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Monthly Business Survey and the International Trade in Services Survey (ITIS) and various administrative data sources, including the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) produced Overseas Trade Statistics.

Export Statistics Scotland is a National Statistics Publication.

ESS is a National Statistics publication. This means that the UK Statistics Authority believes that ESS is in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. It also means that ESS has been produced independently of Scottish Ministers. Being a National Statistics publication means that ESS meets user needs and is methodologically sound. It also means that the statistics are explained well, and produced free of political interference.

Scottish goods exported via ports from the rest of the UK count as international Scottish exports.

The ESS publication measures the destination of goods exported from Scotland regardless of the port from which they leave the UK.

Scotch Whisky exports count as Scottish exports.

All international Scotch Whisky exports are counted as Scottish exports. This is irrespective of the port from which they leave the UK. The data source is the HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics.

Scotch Whisky exports to the rest of the UK are estimated based on GCS responses. This is because HMRC do not collect information on trade within the UK.

Only the first point of export is counted in ESS. 

Sometimes Scottish goods are exported to the rest of the UK, and are then re-exported. In this situation, the ESS estimates capture the first point of export only. If a company exports a good to the rest of the UK, and this good is then exported somewhere else, ESS will only count the export to the rest of the UK.

Direct sales from Scottish companies to international destinations count as international exports. This is regardless of where these goods leave the UK.

Many Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are unlikely to be re-exported abroad.

Some exports to the rest of the UK will be re-exported, including as part of other products. It is not possible to say exactly what this proportion is. However, over half of Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are services (such as financial services) and are unlikely to be re-exported abroad. Also, many of the goods exported to the rest of the UK are in sectors where re-exporting is unlikely (utilities, retail and wholesale).

Rotterdam is often the initial destination for many of Scotland’s exports.

The port in Rotterdam acts as a major distribution hub as well as a port. This means that Rotterdam is often the destination of many goods exported from Scotland (and the rest of the UK). These goods are then re-exported to other destinations. This results in what is known as the  “Rotterdam Effect”. This is when the amount of exports to the Netherlands is artificially inflated.

ESS counts the first link of a supply chain or value added product as the Scottish export.

The products of some Scottish companies feed into a global supply chain. For example, companies may sell a good to a company in England. This company may incorporate it into a product which is exported internationally. In this situation, only the sale from the Scottish company to their customer in England is counted as a Scottish export.  It would be recorded as a Scottish export to the rest of the UK.

Other sources of Scottish export statistics are available.

ESS is the only official source of Scottish exports which includes estimates for both goods and services.

The Scottish Government also produce the Index of Manufactured Exports (IME). This is a quarterly publication measuring growth, in real terms, of overseas export sales in Scotland. These exports are broken down by manufacturing sector. These figures are now published within the Quarterly National Accounts report.

The HMRC Regional Trade Statistics (RTS) are published on a quarterly basis. RTS is a National Statistics publication. It provides a breakdown of the flows of imports and exports between regions and countries of the UK and other countries. RTS includes trade of goods only. It excludes trade in services (e.g. banking, tourism) and intangibles (e.g. financial investments or transfers). Further information on their methodology is available.

Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) are UK level trade data. OTS provides more detailed commodity information.

ONS also produce experimental statistics estimating international exports of services from Scotland. These statistics are based on the existing UK ITIS publication. Their figures for Scotland were different from those produced in ESS due to differences in methodology and data sources. Further information on their methodology is available.

There are no equivalent UK or English figures to ESS. Comparisons can be made using HMRC RTS but this will only include exports of goods. HMRC RTS also excludes trade within the UK.

Some information on Scottish imports are available, but this is not equivalent to ESS.

There are no statistics on the total value of imports to Scotland on a comparable basis to ESS. The Scottish Government produces Quarterly National Accounts. This includes imports on a Balance of Payments basis. It also includes a net trade balance for the onshore economy. HMRC also publish statistics on imports of goods from overseas to Scotland in their RTS.


If you have any enquiries relating to these statistics then please contact us at:

Email: exports.statistics@gov.scot

Telephone: 0141 278 4466

Trade Statistics
5th Floor Atlantic Quay 5
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

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