Export Statistics Scotland: methodology

Information about the methodology used to produce the estimates of Scotland's exports in the Export Statistics Scotland publication.

Comparison with HMRC data

HMRC collects information on UK trade in goods, and does not include trade in services. HMRC data is available from the UK Trade Info website. There are two data sources which may be of interest. 

Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) 

HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) are UK level trade in goods data which do not provide a regional breakdown. However, OTS provides more detailed commodity information. 

Regional Trade Statistics (RTS) 

HMRC Regional Trade Statistics (RTS) provides an estimate of Scotland’s international trade in goods only. However, it does not include trade between regions of the UK. Unlike ESS, exports of oil and gas are included in RTS.  

RTS uses the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) to classify goods by product, whereas breakdowns by product are not used in ESS. The results are therefore only broadly comparable with the Manufacturing and Production industry sectors used in ESS, which come from the Standard Industry Classification (SIC 2007).  

RTS uses the UK trade value from OTS and then allocates trade to the different regions of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). This data comes from UK customs declarations. Trade is then apportioned to Scotland using the proportion of employees in each region of the UK. In contrast, ESS finds businesses that have economic activity in Scotland, based on Scottish local units from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), and then estimates the export activity of these Scottish companies. The ‘bottom-up’ approach used in ESS is likely to produce a different estimate of Scotland’s exports compared to the ‘top-down’ regional apportionment approach taken by HMRC. Quarterly Scottish HMRC reports are available under the name 'Scotland's International Goods Trade' on the Scottish Government Trade Statistics collection page. 

The value of Scotland’s goods exports from HMRC RTS is much higher than the ESS estimate of the value of international manufacturing exports, largely because HMRC RTS include exports of oil and gas, whereas ESS estimates do not. When oil and gas is excluded from the RTS values, the estimates are much more similar. The remaining differences are due to the methodological differences described above. 

Figure 6. ESS estimates for international manufacturing exports are fairly similar to HMRC RTS estimates and follow a similar trend, when oil and gas are excluded 

The value of international exports, from 2019 to 2021, sourced from ESS 2021 and HMRC RTS

Line chart showing the value of international exports, from 2019 to 2021, sourced from ESS 2021 and HMRC RTS

Source: HMRC Regional Trade Statistics 2023 Q2, ESS 2021



If you have any enquiries relating to these statistics then please contact the Trade Statistics team at:

Email: exports.statistics@gov.scot

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

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