Ministerial Trade Board minutes: April 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 29 April 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Stephen Pathirana SG


  • Ivan McKee MSP
  • Eric Balish
  • Martin Bell
  • Karen Betts
  • Laura Birrell
  • Russell Dalgleish
  • Rachel Jones
  • Afzal Khushi
  • Kate Little
  • Kevin Norris
  • Paul Sheerin
  • Linda Steedman
  • Susan Stewart
  • James Withers

Also in attendance

  • Neil Francis, Head of Trade, SDI

Scottish Government:

  • Reuben Aitken (RA), Deputy Director Trade Policy Team
  • David McPhee, Head of Trade Support
  • Scott Strain, Head of Trade Promotion
  • Samantha Paterson, Trade Support
  • Ben Goonesena, Trade Support
  • William Gray , Trade Support

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and AOB

There were no apologies and no points raised for any other business

Minister’s reflections

Ivan McKee gave his reflections on the Covid-19 crisis and updated trade board members on the formation of the Economic Advisory Group

Item 1 Trade negotiations, tariffs and emerging barriers – Reuben Aitken

  • RA updated the trade board on a range of key trade policy issues related to EU exit and the Covid-19 crisis. RA talked through the current status of UK trade negotiations, the Scottish Government input into these and the position on the EU Exit negotiations and transition period. On Covid-19, he talked through the introduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade affecting Scottish companies. He sought members’ views on the key impacts, barriers and routes to recovery/renewal should the lockdown start to ease.  

The points below were made by members in response to RA presentation and questions posed.

  • The retail sector is currently facing a significant storm. Many stores are closed with no retail income. For some companies trade is at 20% of normal and given the scale of the crisis the prospect of Brexit has disappeared from view.
  • Some companies in the engineering sector are part of complex supply chains and the Brexit stockpiling which was done earlier in the year has been keeping supply chains going just now. However, this contingency stock will run out so it is vital to rebalance these supply chains before that point.
  • Food and drink sector exports have collapsed in many areas including seafood and red meat. Costs of shipping and air freight are compounding the costs. Collective investment in the F&D sector is vital to ensure that Scottish companies do not lose market share to competitor companies. If the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020 this would be a catastrophe for many companies.
  • The restrictions in hospitality and tourism have significant impacts on Scotch whisky. Many smaller SMEs are heavily reliant on tourism for their revenues. Recovery in the sector will likely be in line with wider economic recovery/trends.
  • Action – trade board members were invited to provide written responses to the questions raised to officials.

Item 2  UK parliament international trade committee inquiry – Chair

  • The chair updated the board on the UK parliament International Trade Committee Inquiry into Covid-19 and International Trade.
  • Action: Trade board members were invited to share any written evidence that they gave to the Committee with officials/the Minister

Item 3 International market tracking – Scott Strain

  • SS updated on the work commissioned by Ms Hyslop for the Economy Hub to gain a perspective on current lockdown processes in Scotland’s key markets.  
  • The Hub is now looking at some of Scotland’s leading markets and how different approaches are impacting Scottish businesses operating there and what can be learnt.
  • Current areas of focus include the USA, France, Germany, Japan and Canada, will also focus on the top 15 countries from the Export Growth Plan
  • Action – if members are aware of key companies operating in these areas that would be willing to share intelligence, they should get in touch with officials.

Item 4 Business Support – Scott Strain

  • SS updated on the main work streams around business support during the COVID-19 crisis. This included a £100 million package of support announced by Scottish Government aimed at supporting those businesses and newly self-employed not currently eligible for UK government support.
  • There was a request that SMEs and their views are represented on the Economic Advisory Group. Action: this feedback will be shared with officials leading on the EAG.
Back to top