Ministerial Trade Board minutes: December 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 11 December 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade investment and Innovation
  • Kevin Quinlan, Director of International Trade & Investment (SG)


  • Russell Dalgleish
  • Rachel Jones
  • Kate Little
  • Paul Sheerin
  • James Withers
  • Afzal Khushi
  • Laura Birrell
  • Kevin Norris
  • Eric Balish
  • James Withers

By phone

  • Martin Bell (standing in for Karen Betts)
  • Linda Steedman
  • Chris Mackie (SG)


  • Karen Betts 

Also in attendance

  • Ewen Cameron (SDI)
  • Susan Stewart (Open University & Depute Convener of the International Committee)

From Scottish Government

  • Scott Strain, Head of Trade Promotion
  • Gurjit Singh, Trade Support
  • James Anderson, Trade Promotion
  • Ben Goonesena , Trade Support
  • David McPhee, Trade Support
  • Samantha Paterson, Trade Support

Items and actions

Summary of Actions from Meeting 11 Dec 2019

Action 1: An e-commerce working group will be set up by DITI officials with TB members invited to contribute.

Action 2: Details of the Global Scot platform will be circulated to TB members for feedback in Q1 2020.

Action 3: The dates of Scotland activation in Dubai will be shared with TB members when confirmed.  

Action 4: There will be follow-up before the next TB meeting on the formation of sub-groups in which members can contribute on specific areas of work.

Item 1: Welcome and Apologies

Kevin Quinlan (KQ) opened the meeting by asking for comments on the minutes from the September meeting. No comments were raised. 

All terms of reference were returned from those attending this meeting.  Asked for any conflict of interest, none were raised during the meeting.

The Minister noted that we are structuring the TB discussion around the themes of the A Trading Nation, the Export Growth Plan (EGP).  The Minister is satisfied with the way the many actions from the EGP are being taken forward by the team in DITI.  He values the TB contribution to each theme.  He further noted that he would encourage members to continue to get involved in groups and take away actions going forward to work with the teams. 

Item 2: ScotExport – Ewen Cameron SDI

EC took the board through the headline figures and feedback from the ScotExport event in November and thanked TB members for their participation.  

Questions and reflections

  • A breakdown from the event of who moves on to becoming an exporter would be a useful addition for future.
  • It would be beneficial to specifically target companies from the ‘sleeping giants’ and ‘global by birth’ segments identified in the EGP for participation at ScotExport.
  • At future events such as ScotExport, inviting buyers to speak to potential exporters about what they are looking for in market could be inspiring and provide useful information.
  • Understanding the barriers and requirements in terms of packaging and shipping would be helpful for potential exporters.

Item 3: International Networks – Chris Mackie SG

CM took the TB through the headline work being undertaken to review Scotland’s presence and offices across the world.  The review focuses on how we work overseas rather than where we work.

The project will move on to consultation stage and TB members will be canvassed for their views and feedback.

Questions and Reflections

  • The experience has been that ‘Scotland is Now’ is very effective.  TB members would be interested in understanding more about the relationship with DIT.  It is important that Scottish companies can access the full range of support on offer across both SDI and DIT.
  • Scottish universities are a great example of soft power working effectively and are being consulted as part of this work.
  • Economic diplomacy is important in this area and would support businesses.

Item 4: Overseas Missions & Exhibitions – Ewen Cameron SDI

EC explained the role of the SDI events team who lead on engagement and have a presence overseas for Scotland at exhibitions and trade shows.  

This work has been aligned with the EGP priority markets.  SDI are also working with the Scottish Chambers who delivered 17 events this year.  

There is a shift away from Scottish pavilions at shows which are very resource intensive and SDI would like to do this more in partnership in the future. 

Some events have been aligned with major world events such as the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and in Expo 2020 in Dubai. 

Questions and Reflections

  • How do we ensure SDI’s presence at overseas exhibitions and events is signposted to businesses? 
  • It is important to consider how universities are best included in these events. Currently their participation is centred on research taking place.
  • It is important to consider how the benefits to trade and investment are evaluated.  Companies fill in anticipated sales and then are asked to evaluate - is this a true reflection of the benefits? 
  • How many participants are new businesses and how many are those that have previously taken part in exhibitions? There was a discussion around how to ensure that companies are aware of these events and the current process of selecting the most appropriate companies was clarified. 

Item 5: Ministerial Visits Overseas – James Anderson

JA explained the process and plan for the Minister’s engagement for the coming year. Ministerial visits will be strategic and aligned with the EGP priority countries.  DITI will share plans and engagements as much as possible and as far in advance as possible.

Item 6: Expo 2020 Dubai – Gurjit Singh

GS explained the plans and themes of Expo 2020 “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and the UK Pavilion at Expo “Innovation for a Shared Future”.

Scotland has become a sponsor of the UK pavilion which will allow Scotland to hold 5 days of activation around key policy areas which tell Scotland’s story across the pavilion and centred around the wider Expo theme.  Work is underway to develop programmes of activity in line with the chosen themes of Climate Change and Clean Energy, Life Sciences and AI & Data.  

Questions and Reflections on Item 5 & 6

  • The DITI team will share the dates for Scottish activation as far in advance as possible.
  • It would be beneficial to use Scotland’s business network in Dubai and the whole of the UAE. 
  • The effective use of social media over the entire 6 months to tell Scotland’s story at Expo will ensure that Scotland’s international messaging reaches a global audience.

Item 7: Universities Scotland Ontario Project - Susan Stewart.

Universities Scotland is working closely with SDI to map partnerships between Scotland and Ontario. There are strong existing links between Scotland and Ontario and the project will seek to build further collaboration on areas of mutual strength. Universities Scotland is planning to announce the launch of the initiative at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in Toronto in September 2020. 

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