Ministerial Trade Board minutes: June 2019

Minutes from the ninth meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 12 June 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade investment and Innovation (Chair)
  • Eric Balish
  • Russell Dalgleish
  • Rachel Jones
  • Ferdinand von Prondzynski
  • Kate Little
  • Paul Sheerin

Also in attendance

  • Neil Francis, (SDI)
  • Ewen Cameron (SDI)
  • Lindsay Branston (SE)

From Scottish Government

  • Stephen Pathirana, DD Trade & Investment
  • Scott Strain, Head of Trade Promotion
  • Lesley Ward, Senior Policy Adviser, Trade Promotion
  • Catriona Syme, Trade Promotion
  • Gurjit Singh, Trade Support


  • Karen Betts
  • Linda Steedman
  • James Withers
  • Afzal Khushi
  • Laura Birrell
  • Kevin Norris

Items and actions

Item 1 - Welcome & Introductions, apologies, minutes of previous meeting

The Minister welcomed attendees and indicated that following publication of A Trading Nation he would like the Board to be structured around delivering the plan. This would involve the Board having strategic oversight of our development of the plan and members offering guidance and advice on specific elements of the plan that they have expertise and experience in.

Minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and apologies accepted from, Karen Betts, Linda Steedman, James Withers, Afzal Khushi, Laura Birrell and Kevin Norris.

Item 2 – SDI: Delivering the Export Growth Plan – Neil Francis

Aligning Resources

SDI are part of a national export service system that includes other partners like Chambers and Local Authorities. A coherent export support system is a key aim of the Strategic Board and is crucial to ensure that support is available to all companies.

As outlined in A Trading Nation SDI will focus on driving export growth primarily from tiers 2 and 3 (‘solid performers’ and ‘sleeping giants’) of the business segments, using data on current international sales to determine where SDI should focus the balance of effort.

In total, SDI have around 100 staff based overseas in markets of interest for Scotland. SDI are increasingly asking them to do trade development rather than just trade advice. Looking for individual opportunities in-market and connecting them to customers.

Each trade advisor will look after around 25 to 35 companies. The trade advisory role has become more specialised and specifically focussed on working directly with companies. There is now a specific Trade Services team that provides the support to deliver around 60 – 70 international market events every year, including missions and learning journeys into the 26 priority markets.

SDI target for this year is a £1 to £1.5 bn uplift in international sales.

Discussion: There were a number of questions considered in discussion including:

  • whether the balance on solid performers vs sleeping giants is right
  • whether the right people with the right skills and experience are in place in Scotland and in-market
  • how best to make use of feedback and crucially, to build ambition amongst companies to take up the support and services on offer

It was agreed that:

  • the impact of assistance needs to be measured and understood as well as feedback recorded and acted upon. This is part of the evaluation frameworks being developed as part of the Export Growth Plan
  • networks, in particular GlobalScots need to be used to support connections across sectors, especially if the experience of the in-market specialist is limited or focused in another area
  • it is essential that overseas staff have the networks businesses need in-market as well as knowledge of Scotland and its companies and are invested in its future

Action 1: Trade Board members to go back to NF with specific feedback.

Action 2: NF to think about how best to gather and use feedback to drive change in networks, products and services.


SDI has 35 overseas offices including the US, Canada, Brussels, Dublin, Berlin, Paris, China, India.
There are a variety of other Scottish stakeholders present, Universities, CBI, Chambers and the wider diaspora.
Often SDI have to generate demand for support.
Discussion: A number of points were raised around the balance and level of representation in the different markets and the need to maintain flexibility to respond to new evidence and changing circumstances.
Agreement that strengthening presence in the US and Germany, as well as a focus on priority markets is welcome.
Noted that business demand doesn’t always follow where the evidence of where the best opportunities might be. This makes having the right evidence available and the right people to challenge assumptions crucial to success. 


SDI Trade teams operate as sectoral “families”. This enables connections to be made between sectors like tech and life sciences and is flexible enough to adapt to new developments.

International footprint

The Scottish diaspora are key to Trade and Investment.
The GlobalScot network will grow from 600 to 2000.
Work is currently underway to evaluate the existing network.
There is clear demand from GlobalScots to do more. We will be clearer about our asks and offers and make GlobalScots more accessible to businesses.
The number of Trade Envoys will be expanded.
All of these resources in market, as well as the SDI and SG in-market presence have to be harnessed for the benefit of Scottish businesses.

Action 3: NF to send trade board members the link to the GS information and recruitment pack. 

Item 3 – Alumni

There are 19 Scottish universities with international operations and approximately 23,000 overseas students graduating every year from Scottish Universities. The overall number of Scottish alumni globally is around 1.5 million. Scottish universities have a presence in approximately 29 countries including India and the UAE.
This represents a huge opportunity and a huge amount of global goodwill for Scotland. More can be done to mobilise this group for the benefit of Scottish businesses.
Universities Scotland is leading this work with support from Ferdinand von Prondzynski and the DITI Trade Support team. A detailed update and discussion will take place at the September Trade Board meeting.
Discussion: Data sharing was identified as a challenge to his project and work is underway, led by Trade Board members, to establish a data sharing protocol between SE and SG which could have wider applicability for the universities and other sectors.
Agreed that the key is to work with students while they are still in Scotland. The Minister is committed to doing this.
The challenges with securing post study work visas were noted as an issue that could put students off staying in Scotland after graduation.
Action 4: FVP to speak to RJ and JW regarding the data sharing protocol.
Action 5: NF to consider having a dedicated alumni resource to work alongside the GlobalScot SDI team.

Item 4 - Business Survey

Russell updated on work underway in partnership with Scotland House London, including a successful diaspora event and a recent tech event. These types of events, in particular the peer-to-peer contact, help companies to connect and to grow their export ambition.
Discussion: Discussion focussed on how to build ambition amongst companies and how to make sure that they get connected to the right people once they land in-market.
A particular point was whether there is scope through the Scottish National Investment Bank should appoint non-exec directors with international experience as one means of ensuring that businesses are being encouraged to think about international expansion.
SDI’s November ScotExport event was highlighted as an opportunity to build ambition and members all expressed an interest in supporting the development of the programme and activities on the day.
Action 6: SG to follow up with SNIB.
Action 7: SDI to send information on ScotExport to TB members to enable them to input in advance of the September meeting.
Action 8: RD, FVP and David McPhee’s Trade Support team in DITI to meet and discuss coordination of international networks work streams.

Item 5 - Presentation – Single Digital Entry Point

Members received a presentation of the alpha version of which seeks to provide a single access point for any business looking for advice and support in Scotland.

Discussion: A number of issues were discussed including whether adding a new URL would further clutter the landscape, how the site would be optimised to come higher up the search results and the challenges and requirements of responding to queries in real time as opposed to within business hours.
All members were interested in the portal and in supporting its further development and improvement.
Action 9: RD volunteered SBN members to test the portal.

Item 6 - Presentation – E-Commerce

Members received a presentation on the work SDI has been leading on the development of e-commerce advice and support for business.
This has included the appointment of two new staff as well as working with consultants and trainers to deliver e – workshops, participate in Amazon’s annual conference and have creation of a hub/forum for companies involved in e –commerce to meet every two months to talk and share experiences.
Feedback has shown that companies want more detailed advice and appropriate in- market support, tailored for different markets.
Discussion: A number of the members have specific experience in this sector and raised interesting issues such as how to ensure adequate IP protection, the challenges of trading on platforms and how visible you as a company are to your customers.

There was a general consensus that E-commerce is an area where there is further work to be done to support businesses but that it is essential they get the right advice to ensure their business is able to benefit and grow from using e-commerce to support their international ambitions.

Action 10: RJ to work with EC on specific ecommerce advice for China.

Item 7 - Presentation – Scotland Is Now

Members received a presentation on the Scotland Is Now campaign and the development of the business pillar.

Discussion: Discussion included consideration of whether education should be included within the business pillar; the need to ensure that assets area available in the languages of our priority markets and a desire to make sure we are really showcasing Scotland as it is now, rather than trading on past success. In addition, the need to enable the brand to be used by Scottish businesses without diluting the brand value and tailoring content depending on the audience were raised.

Action10: GS to follow up on the SIN T&Cs and report back to members.

Action 11: RJ, RD to contact GS with ideas from real businesses.




Robert Logan
Directorate for International Trade and Investment
Scottish Government
Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
Glasgow G2 8LU

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