Ministerial Trade Board minutes: December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 6 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ivan McKee, MSP, Minster for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise (minister)
  • Richard Rollison, Director for International Trade and Investment (chair)

Trade board members

  • Eric Balish, ABC Bank
  • Kate Little, Digital Six
  • Kevin Norris, K.A and C Ltd
  • Paul Sheerin, Scottish Engineering
  • James Withers, Scotland Food and Drink
  • Rachel Jones, Snapdragon
  • Russell Dalgleish, Scottish Business Network
  • Linda Steedman, E Com

Scottish Government

  • James McLennan, DITI
  • Colin Robertson, DITI
  • Samantha Paterson, DITI
  • Catriona Galbraith, DITI
  • Jessica Scriven, OCEA
  • Karl Johnson , OCEA


  • Suzanne Sosna, SDI


  • Afzal Kush , Trespass
  • Karen Betts, SWA
  • Laura Birrell, Sticky Heelz
  • Scott Strain, DITI

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The chair welcomed the group and outlined the attendance as above.

Reflections from the minister

The minister thanked people for attendance, thanked attendees for their insights and comments over the years whilst being part of the board, acknowledged the challenges of Brexit and Coronavirus (COVID-19), and that A Trading Nation’s (ATN) delivery is progressing well and remains a priority for Government in supporting Scotland’s long-term economic growth through increasing exports and the internationalisation of the economy.

The chair introduced himself as the new Director of DITI. The chair briefly detailed the challenges for Government past 20 months, Brexit, elections, COP26 and set out how the work undertaken to review ATN progress. All members had received report in advance of meeting. 


Update of delivering the actions from “A Trading Nation, a plan for growing Scotland’s exports”

The board were presented with an update of ATN’s progress, highlighting successes and challenges, by Colin Robertson and James McLellan. The board members were then invited to provide, feedback on current actions and discuss priorities. 

Discussion with the board

The board discussed ATN’s progress, following points were raised:

Discussion points:

  • general consensus from the board that, despite the significant turbulence of the last two years, ATN’s evidence base and its informed and prioritised approach remains right, but we must ensure we continue to review its relevance to evolving economic and trade opportunities and challenges

  • smaller businesses are collaborating and sharing resources to improve export growth, consideration should be given to how these companies could be supported based on current business segmentation as they may slip through the net 

  • businesses have seen massive growth in E-commerce skills as a result of government programmes, but workforce needs further upskilling to ensure businesses can keep up with the E-commerce demand from COVID-19

  • staff shortages and immigration issues mean businesses are losing overseas contracts as can’t fulfil orders and is becoming an issue for increasing exports

  • feedback from network is that the US is the key market looking to grow and tech companies, tartan Week in April in US proposed as possibly next big event to promote Scottish business given the importance of US markets

  • concerns amongst some of the board that tech companies are not adequately captured in current reporting mechanisms and may not be supported, the tech sector needs a more nuanced definition, link made here to plans to publish a Tech Sector Export Plan in early 2022

  • companies are not always sure if their challenges are related to Brexit or COVID-19, for instance, what they think it’s a problem due to EU Exit is a problem due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Actions from the discussion were as follows:

  • SDI recognise and support opportunities that do not completely fit ATN segmentation, SG/SDI to look into smaller companies collaborating to grow exports to assess growth potential and what actions can be taken forward under ATN to support

  • Tech Export Plan work is looking at mapping out nuances in Tech Sector to see how we can best support businesses, what may be needed for specific tech sectors, and how we can improve current support in practice especially with capturing the data

The chair closes the discussion

The chair asked if there were any further comments, questions, or AOB. There were no final remarks and the minister gave his closing comments.

Closing comments from the minister

The minister thanked everyone for their comments and insights, highlighted the benefits of ATN in progressing as it had, and thanked the board again for their input.

The minister re-iterated his thanks to all current members of the board for input over the years, it is all valued and has made real difference to the work by government to grow Scotland’s exports.

Back to top