Ministerial Trade Board minutes: December 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 17 December 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation
  • Kevin Quinlan (Chair)

Trade board members

  • Eric Balish, ABC International Bank
  • Laura Birrell, Sticky Heelz
  • Russell Dalgleish, Scottish Business Network
  • Rachel Jones, SnapDragon
  • Afzal Khushi, Trespass
  • Kate Little, Digital Six
  • Kevin Norris, Nova Innovation
  • Linda Steedman, ECom
  • James Withers, Scotland Food and Drink

Scottish Government

  • Daniel Harrison, OCEA
  • Elliot Robertson, EU Negotiation Strategy
  • Reuben Aitken, Trade Policy
  • Lewis Hedge, Trade Policy
  • Justin Mckenzie Smith, EU Exit
  • Scott Strain, Trade Promotion
  • Stephen Sadler, Trade Strategy
  • Colin Robertson, Trade Support
  • Shane Ali, Trade Support
  • Ben Goonesena, Trade Support
  • William Gray, Trade Support
  • Suzanne Sosna, SE


  • Paul Sheerin, Scottish Engineering
  • Karen Betts, SWA

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed the group, outlining the agenda discussion items and the attendance as above. No additional comments were raised.

Reflections from the minister

The Minister thanked the board for their continued participation and emphasised the importance of discussion and feedback from the Trade Board. An update on A Trading Nation and its delivery was also provided.

International trade: coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU exit

Daniel Harrison presented an overview of the latest data on impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on export of Scottish goods to both the EU/RoW as well as trends in UK trade in services. The presentation also covered the latest trends in business readiness for the end of the transition period across Scottish businesses.

Discussion points:

  • closure of hospitality/travel has had the biggest impact on Food and Drink exports, the whisky sector has been hit badly by US tariffs
  • there has been a big shift in the growth of e-commerce sales which seems to be a more permanent shift
  • recovery in the Far East has been positive for food and drink sector
  • retail sector has also seen this shift to e-commerce in buying patterns
  • issues with customs advice on exporting of imported goods to the EU has been conflicting making it very difficult to prepare for end of transition
  • this is compounded by uncertainty surrounding what future trade with the EU will look like, EU member states also interpreting customs rules differently adding to confusion
  • higher demand for consumer products and lower for other products with significant impacts on getting key components from China due to disrupted distribution of freight containers
  • cost of containers from China and the far east has increased significantly which is impacting imports massively (shipping costs)

EU exit negotiations and business preparedness

Scottish Government Trade Policy officials updated the Board on the latest information on the EU-UK trade negotiations, the possible shape of a trade deal and on resilience and analytics on business readiness.

Discussion points:

  • helplines will be critical because of the maze of information available, information will be changing quickly and human guidance will be key at this time
  • aside from tariffs, the other issues affecting the Food and Drink sector such as paperwork and disruption will be significant regardless of a deal or no deal
  • shortage of customs officials is a significant issue as well as the additional paperwork required for companies to export
  • some feeling that availability of UK government grants has not been as well advertised as possible
  • Brexit analytics need clear information and industry needs to work with SDI and SE and others to target outreach
  • opportunity to upskill and reskill those who have been made unemployed by the pandemic in customs or in e-commerce skills that could be critical


  •  link in Scottish Governement Skills Team to explore further (already started) 

  • SE and SDI helpline will be open every day from 28 December 10am to 4pm


  • Scottish Government and agencies could potentially put out a joint message graphic to communicate support available, tweet and graphic via social media completed

Trade vision

SG Trade policy officials gave an over of Trade Vision underpinned by the five trade principles and applied to the biggest challenges across Scotland’s economy, people and the planet.

Discussion points:

  • a clear values driven approach amongst the younger generation in businesses, this means that this values driven approach is important given this trend
  • there can be an inherent tension between exports and sustainability, within this agenda this can focus on how we do business and how we produce our products
  • clear link to Scotland Is Now campaign Inherent tension between increasing exports and sustainability


  • identify members of the Board who could input under each of the three pillars, potential for Trade Board members to participate in specific Trade Vision pillars, engagement started between Trade Policy and Trade Board members

Closing comments from the minister

Mr McKee thanked the board and encouraged all attendees to continue engagement and dialogue, ensuring that conversations and actions are taken forward.


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