Ministerial Trade Board minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the Ministerial Trade Board meeting on Tuesday 20th June 2023

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government

  • Richard Lochhead, MSP, Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade
  • Chair: Richard Rollison, Director for International Trade and Investment
  • Colin Robertson, Head of Trade Support
  • Scott Strain, Head of Trade Promotion
  • Alisdair McIntosh, Programme Director, Green Freeports
  • Victoria Roberts, Senior Policy Executive
  • Catriona Galbraith, Policy Adviser

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
  • Paul Sheerin, Scottish Engineering
  • James Varga, DirectID

Scottish Development International

  • Jan Robertson, Director for Global Trade


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


  • Eric Balish, ABC Bank
  • Gillian Docherty, University of Strathclyde
  • Gary White, IQVIA
  • Mairi Spowage, Director of Fraser of Allander Institute
  • Reuben Aitken, Managing Director SDI
  • David Currie, Proserv

Items and actions

Items and actions

Item 1: Welcome and introductions

The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed Richard Lochhead, MSP, Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade, highlighting that this is the first meeting with our new minister in post.

A short overview of the planned agenda was shared, and apologies were noted.

Item 2: Update from Minister and Board Introductions

The minister and members participated in a round table of introductions with the minister setting out priorities and asks of the Board.

Item 3: Discussion on export growth

Trade and Investment Delivery officials presented a short overview of Scotland’s recent trade performance using the latest HMRC data. Discussions focussed on current A Trading Nation delivery and activity. Members discussed the trade figures and expressed interest in the following;

  • trade figures once O&G excluded
  • detail on devolved nations’ relative export performance
  • whether war in Ukraine or latent factors are impacting performance
  • understanding how we flex to meet the needs of evolving sectors which are not necessarily traditional strengths to improve export performance

Minister and Board keen to understand the long term statistical trends in Scottish exports.

Action June 01: Scottish Government analysts to carry out further work to learn what underpins recent trade performance and understand long term statistical trends in export data to feedback to the Minister and members at the next meeting.

Members discussed European export opportunities following Brexit and noted key changes:

  • companies are building resilience, adapting their business models, and  returning to Europe
  • European focussed Trade Missions would help to highlight the positive changes and best practise that has been introduced now that trade logistics challenges have receded

Members engaged in a healthy discussion regarding trade opportunities and noted:  

  • energy security is key, with many supply chain opportunities in Offshore Wind
  • SDI are working to align companies with domestic and international energy opportunities
  • goods reputation linked to their resilience and trade performance – for instance whisky’s global reputation attributed to its strong trade figures
  • choosing the right working environment/model for your workforce is key to generating productivity and performance
  • better UKG and SG coordination would enable Scottish businesses to be represented in UK-level trade missions
  • highlighted the importance of visas such as digital nomad as a means to attracting highly skilled labour into critical sectors, strong International examples to be considered including Estonia and Spain

Action June 02: Officials to explore Estonia’s digital nomad model and share details with the Minister.

Item 4: Trade & Investment Opportunities of Green Freeports

Programme Director, Alisdair McIntosh, presented on the Trade and Investment Opportunities of Scotland's Green Freeports (GFP) and opened for discussion:

  • the Board thought that briefing on GFPs should be provided for GlobalScots, Trade and Investment Envoys, and others with a potential interest, in view of the inward investment and trade opportunities they would bring
  • the Board would be keen to have more information about what key products and services would be involved in GFPs, and linkages to the broader renewable exports action plan and hydrogen strategy
  • it would be helpful to educate the business community more widely on what GFPs will do and how they could benefit
  • it would be important for GFPs to give sufficient attention to broader trade opportunities alongside their inward investment and manufacturing priorities
  • the Board would welcome a further update when the GFPs’ business plans were more advanced

Item 5: Update on Scottish Connections and OCEA’s Return on Investment Projects

Scottish Connections Framework

Trade and Investment Delivery officials updated on the Scottish Connections Framework, published on 11 April which outlines a cross-cutting approach to diaspora engagement with a series of commitments and ambitions to strengthen and expand our relationships with, and between, Scotland’s international communities. Key highlights include;

  • framework plans to improve our digital offering from Scotland
  • the launch of two new online resources for the diaspora by which diaspora can register themselves as a member of Scotland’s international community
  • the Pilot of a Scottish Connections Fund which will be open to bids from the Scottish diaspora – individuals and organisations – to support the aims of the Scottish Connections Framework
  • a diaspora recognition award to encourage and reward the work of Scots around the world, either in service to their own countries or what they deliver for Scotland’s interests
  • a Scottish Connections advisory panel to advise on priorities, opportunities, and specific initiatives to improve our diaspora activity
  • members were asked to support the Scottish Connections Framework by helping to raise awareness of the network and the advisory panel where possible

Members discussed the importance of leveraging Scotland’s natural advantages with sectoral strengths to boost exports - acknowledging the vital role that Trade and Investment Envoys and GlobalScots play in this. Members also conveyed varied experience with effectiveness of GlobalScots and noted that GlobalScots could be leveraged at international events.

On showcasing Scotland, members noted Scotland could sell/showcase Scotland to people coming in on flights to improve business.

Minister interested to know how Trade Board, Trade and Investment Envoys, GlobalScots, and the Scottish Diaspora align.

Action June 03: Officials to provide diagram showing how Trade and Investment Envoys, GlobalScots, and the Scottish Diaspora align.

Return on Investment

Trade and Investment Delivery officials shared that the delivery evaluation of A Trading Nation was concluding and shared that the Board would have the opportunity to discuss the outcomes of the report at the next meeting in September.   

This work has been led by Scottish Government economist and analysts working in partnership with Aston University and Enterprise Agencies.

Action June 04: Trade Board secretariat to share A Trading Nation return on investment report once available with members.


To augment Trade Board governance practices, a conflict of interest’s disclosure will be a staple agenda item moving forward.

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