Ministerial Trade Board minutes: January 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board 16 January 2024

Attendees and apologies


  • Richard Lochhead, MSP, Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade

Trade Board Members:

  • Iain Baxter, Scotland Food & Drink
  • Russell Dalgleish, Scottish Business Network
  • Simon Forrest, Nova Innovation
  • Richard Knox, Verlume 
  • Sarah Lynagh, Fios Genomic 
  • Marcus Pickering, Summerhall Distillery Ltd
  • James Varga, Fintech 
  • Gillian Docherty, University of Strathclyde
  • David Currie, Proserv

Scottish Government:

  • James McLellan, Deputy Director, Export, and Inward Investment Policy Division
  • Colin Robertson, Head of Trade Support 
  • Scott Strain, Head of Trade Promotion 
  • Mark Boyce, Head of COP28 Scottish Business Engagement and Diplomacy
  • Gurjit Singh, Team Leader Trade Promotion
  • Eva Guidi, Graduate Development Programme
  • Jonathan Edosomwan, Economic Adviser
  • Michelle Patrick, Senior Assistant Statistician
  • Thomas Alexis, Assistant Statistician
  • Victoria Roberts, Senior Policy Executive
  • Lynne Dow, Private Secretary

Scottish Development International

  • Jan Robertson, Director for Global Trade


  • Rachel Gwyon, Director UK Nations, Agriculture, Food & Drink, Department for Business and Trade


  • Richard Rollison Director for International Trade and Investment,
  • Reuben Aitken, Managing Director SDI,
  • Gary White, IQVIA,
  • Eric Balish, Bank ABC,
  • Paul Sheerin, Scottish Engineering,
  • Mairi Spowage, Director of Fraser of Allander Institute
  • Catriona Galbraith, Policy Adviser

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair opened the meeting, shared a short overview of the planned agenda, and noted apologies. 

Discussion on key issues in trade

Members engaged in a healthy discussion exploring critical issues to trade and exports for the year ahead and noted the following:  

  • external guests and businesses to be invited to future Trade Boards to share recent experience of exporting.
  • encouraged by the First Minister’s vision in his recent speech, to create a ‘Ministry for industrial policy’ with plans for an ‘industrial policy council’ to advise.  A strong desire to see this progressed.   
  • members eager to be involved in the discussions on how the National Strategy for Economic Transformation reflects on-going developments in the export agenda and international opportunities.
  • members highlighted Scottish Development International’s helpful programmes and the huge role they play in supporting many small businesses grow international sales. 
  • acknowledgment that ‘follow up’ discussion that happen out with the Board are a huge asset in terms of unlocking economic mechanisms. The recent Hydrogen facilitated discussion was shared as a key example. 
  • Supply Chain and Commodity elements of the Hydrogen Sector Export Plan to be tested with Board members, prior to publication.
  • SDI’s in-year funding restriction was noted to be a challenge for companies, sharing that long term funding arrangements would be more helpful for small businesses early in their exporting journey. Due to public sector budget requirements , it was acknowledged that this would unlikely change however work is ongoing with SDI to make year on year transitions as smooth as possible. 
  • agreement that continued narrative on Green Freeports and the opportunities it leads to for Scotland would be favourable.
  • the Board recognised the importance of raising their own profile at future events to showcase to investors how the Board can help to coordinate export feedback from the business community to government.

Action January 01: At a future meeting, members to consider how SDI can maximise support within their current resource, exploring if the key markets identified will deliver the best impact and maximise export growth for the year ahead.


Trade and Investment Delivery officials presented on the recent programme of engagement for COP28.

The Board were extremely complimentary agreeing this was an example of how a ‘Team Scotland’ approach should be delivered. The Board noted the following as key contributors to success;

  • well organised programme of engagement for both Ministers and business
  • a unique partnership approach, with Government, Enterprise Agencies, Academia, GlobalScots and business all working together
  • the ‘St Andrew’s Night’ Event and other networking opportunities were key to building business profiles.
  • Access to the GlobalScot network
  • ‘In country’ PR Agency.
  • the excellent facilities at Herriot Watt University Scotland Hub

The Board were asked for their views on upcoming international trade and investment events and received a short update on the X3 Event planned for May. This event is set to celebrate the best Scotland have around Health, Wealth, and Environment and is targeting to attract 100 growth investors from outside Scotland and will be based in Edinburgh.

The Chair thanked the COP team and all involved in the programme of work and urged everyone to support, promote and get behind the upcoming X3 Event.


Export Statistics Scotland Update

Trade Statistics officials presented a short overview of the recently published Export Statistics Scotland data. Discussions focussed on Scotland’s international trade estimates and exports to the rest of the UK (rUK), with officials sharing the impacts of Brexit. Key points shared captured below;

  • Scotland’s international exports remained below pre pandemic levels, but exports to the rUK were higher than pre pandemic levels
  • Scotland exports to the EU were lower than pre pandemic and EU Exit
  • international exports relied heavily on manufacturing where as exports to rUK relied more on services
  • largest industry sector was food beverages and tobacco
  • US remains Scotland’s largest international export destination

Statisticians noted that these figures will have been impacted due to the pandemic and EU exit.

Members queried the lack of distinct measurement for renewable activity outside of oil and gas for Scotland’s exports of good and services. Officials shared the current work to explore alternative ways of assessing the volume of renewable export activity, which is taking place via the framework to grow Scotland's renewables exports actions. 

Members discussed the balance of UK and International exports and were keen to see this data across a longer timeframe, sharing that for a healthier export economy it is key that we are not reliant on one market.  

Action January 02: Statisticians to explore the ‘Export to UK v International’ slide data across a longer timeframe to identify if there is an issue or trend.

Stocktake on the Board’s role and remit 

At the previous meeting, members discussed how to get the best value out of the Board. Some of the points raised were implemented immediately, for example more open discussion related to trade and exports, however with Board members’ current Terms of Reference shortly due for review it was agreed the feedback would be aligned to any membership refresh. 

Action January 03: Agreement that the process of reappointment to the Board will be discussed at the next meeting. 

Members agreed that a 12-month strategic forward look would be helpful and that the topics discussed at agenda item 2 would help inform this.

Action January 04: A short paper setting out future agenda discussion topics to be shared for consideration. 


Green Freeports 

  • following last year’s presentation outlining the Trade and Investment Opportunities of Scotland's Green Freeports (GFP), final trade and investment strategies will be contained in the Full Business Cases of both GFP’s later this year, if the Board would welcome a further presentation on these

Sub Groups

  • in collaboration with SDI, the Peer-to-Peer Support Sub Group has now met with a range of companies to further understand their needs
  • due to competing diary pressures the International Networks Sub Group has decided to pause activity and explore a more ad hoc approach to international development

The Minister thanked all for attending and closed the meeting.


Ministerial Trade Board



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