Ministerial Trade Board minutes: September 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board, held on 11 September 2019.

Attendees and apologies


Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade investment and Innovation      
Kevin Quinlan, Director of International Trade & Investment, Scottish Government            


Russell Dalgleish, Rachel Jones, Kate Little, Paul Sheerin, Karen Betts, Linda Steedman, James Withers, Afzal Khushi, Laura Birrell, Kevin Norris


Eric Balish, Ferdinand von Prondzynski, James Withers 

Also in attendance

Neil Francis, (SDI), Julie Morrison (SE), Susan Stewart, Open University & Depute Convener of the International Committee 

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
Nick White, International Higher Education
Stuart Adam, DEXA
Daniel Kleinberg, SNIB
James Anderson, Trade Promotion
Ben Goonesena (SG), Trade Support
David McPhee (SG), Trade Support
Samantha Paterson (SG), Trade Support

Items and actions

Item 1: Welcome and introductions, apologies, minutes of previous meeting

The Minister welcomed attendees before handing over to Kevin Quinlan (KQ) to run through the agenda and to outline the approach for the first of many deep dives into the implementation of A Trading Nation. 

KQ explained that today Scotland’s International networks, specifically the GlobalScot network, Trade Envoys, Alumni and Scotland’s wider diaspora would be the focus, specifically considering the role and contribution of each in supporting export growth from Scotland.

All policy and project leads were present for the meeting and would provide four short presentations giving a snapshot of progress to date and plans for the future followed by a detailed discussion.

Minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and apologies accepted from James Withers, Eric Balish & Ferdinand Von Prondzynski.

Members were asked to declare if they had any conflicts of interest relating to agenda items for the meeting, and if so, that they should declare them. No declarations were made.  

KQ highlighted that an action log will be prepared and circulated in advance of the next meeting to keep track of new and previously agreed actions.

Item 2: Scotland’s International Networks – deep dive

There were four presentations on the GlobalScot network, Trade Envoys, Alumni and diaspora (slide pack circulated alongside minutes). Following which was a discussion around: 

How we can best mobilise these networks to enhance and support the export performance of Scottish based businesses? 


  • to get the most out of any international network both parties have to be clear on the 'ask' and the 'offer'
  • the role of government is to be an enabler, to signpost people to support services (public and private) and other networks; and to provide a platform (but not one that duplicates or complicates what is already available) but fundamentally to get out of the way and not to play the role of 'gatekeeper' 
  • questions were asked, from an export perspective, about how much effort should be put into alumni and diaspora networks. The diaspora numbers are vast and therefore so are the opportunities. As a result it is essential to focus our efforts appropriately to ensure adequate returns. 

Key points from discussion:

  • aim is for Government to have an enabling role in the GlobalScot network; creating a self- service model where businesses can connect directly without having Government as an intermediary 
  • a digital platform is being developed to connect with GlobalScots. This will bring existing platforms together, rather than creating a new platform. TB members supportive of this approach and highlighted a number of platforms like Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook that likely candidates would already be using and that would therefore make GlobalScots and businesses more likely to engage with 

ACTION 1: Trade Board members to be part of a user testing group for the alpha and beta development stages of the GlobalScot digital platform, DITI will facilitate this. 

  • the Government’s role in creating business to business links should be kept to a minimum, signposting companies to appropriate assistance, via public or private sources (Santander and Bank of Scotland were cited as examples and other banks may offer similar services). The ability to connect to a network and get assistance in real time is essential and achievable in a network that spans all time zones where there are a surplus of individuals willing to offer assistance
  • there was a sense that GlobalScots are there to support companies at all stages of development, not just established companies with international trading links. However, there was more they could do to support sleeping giants
  • asks of GlobalScots need to be specific 

ACTION 2: Trade Board members to feed in any additional thoughts on the development of the GlobalScot network and suggest any potential future GlobalScots.

  • The Trade Envoy network is expanding 
  • an evaluation framework is in the early stages of development and evidence from this will be used to inform future expansion of the network
  • the similarity in the roles between the UK Honorary Consuls was highlighted as a potentially useful framework for Trade Envoys given their unofficial/official status to manage any potential risks.
  • the difference between GlobalScots and Trade Envoys was discussed. Envoys are appointed by Ministers to perform a particular set of functions and to pursue Government to Government relations. They do not have diplomatic status and are voluntary and unremunerated but do have a letter of introduction to their foreign ministry in country 
  • some members noted that they had benefitted from the assistance of the Trade Envoys in market and that it is critical to have the right person with the right expertise and connections 
  • some members suggested that the focus for expanding the Trade Envoy network should be split equally between emerging and established markets. Criteria for placement of Envoys are in development along with the monitoring and evaluation framework and this will continue to be refined over time
  • managing conflicts of interest and the reputational risk to Ministers of having someone act on their behalf in sometimes sensitive international markets were also noted as issues 

ACTION 3: TB members to feed in thoughts on the development of the Trade Envoy network. Including suggesting potential candidates for future Trade Envoys.

  • there are an estimated 1.5 million Scottish alumni worldwide. The challenge is what can realistically be done to engage numbers this vast in a meaningful way to deliver specific export outcomes
  • Saltire Scholarships, consisting of 50 students annually from six key countries, including Canada, Pakistan, India and most lately Japan, were flagged as a group, manageable in number, that SG could work with to achieve specific objectives. It was agreed that, while this would be valuable, as a cohort it is too limited to be the extent of action in this area
  • the concept of alumni playing a supportive role for Scotland has to be embedded at the start of their student careers. To this end the Minister for Higher Education & Science wrote to 60,000 students, via SAAS
  • most International alumni are happy to engage after finishing their studies. Scotland ranks higher than any other region in the UK in the international survey on perceptions of studying abroad, students are generally very happy about living and studying in Scotland. The expectation that alumni will be willing to act for the benefit of Scotland, including as potential future GlobalScots or Trade Envoys, may be well founded as a result
  • there have been successful alumni engagement workshops run jointly by SG, SDI and Universities Scotland and in November Mr Lochhead will be convening a short life working group to look at this issue in more detail

ACTION 4: Specific approach to working with saltire scholars to be developed and TB to be kept updated on short life working group being established by Mr Lochhead. 

  • approximately 40% of Inward Investment coming into Scotland via London originates from individuals with a Scottish connection
  • Scottish Business Network started by mapping out business people with a Scottish 
  • earlier in the year Scottish Business Network held a diaspora event in London, this has led to connections being made with other networks in NZ and Denmark and the development of the survey that has recently been launched. It was agreed that there is no need to reinvent the wheel on all of these things and to ensure we are lifting and laying best practice from other countries, particularly the Irish in our approach 
  • it was also noted that the vast numbers of diaspora/alumni and business networks mean there is plenty of scope for GlobalScot, universities and SBN to be active in this space without duplicating effort. However, efforts must be made to ensure these efforts are joined up  

ACTION 5: TB members to complete SBN survey and to circulate through their networks.

Item 3: North America Proposal – Susan Stewart, Open University and Universities Scotland International Committee


  • seventeen universities were canvassed on their preferred target destination in North America. Ontario came out top.
  • SDI is mapping industry links between Scotland and Ontario in support of this project.
  • universities are very well connected internationally, for example there is a lot of partnership work between Scotland and Ontario and approximately 50% of all Scottish diaspora in Canada are located in Ontario.
  • there will be themes of collaborative work including digital healthcare and having joint research projects which could help leverage more funding.
  • the proposal will be discussed at the next International Committee meeting in September. 
  • key points from discussion:
  • • Canada is a difficult market to break into. You require a virtual address to trade there. Is there scope for this project to help with that?
  • • will be interesting to see what Scotland can learn from the Canadian Federal system of Government which in certain ways mirrors the complexities of the UK political landscape. Depending on the region, in Canada, they have differing trade policy objectives?

ACTION 6: The International Committee to share further developments with the Trade Board for input and help to publicise the project via their networks. 

ACTION 7: A request by Universities to be informed as early as possible about the Ministers overseas visits to allow them to add best value. SG is aware of this and is working to become more transparent about sharing details of overseas visits in advance.

Item 4: SNIB – Daniel Kleinberg, Deputy Director SNIB


  • the bank is expected to become operational in the second half of 2020. Providing that the required legislation is passed by Parliament
  • SNIB will take a mission-led approach to investment set by Scottish Ministers
  • the proposed initial three missions are low carbon economy; regeneration and place making; and, responding to demographic change
  • place making means supporting communities that require economic development
  • the ability to change the missions will not be legislative, the process will remain flexible. The bank will be an independent commercial entity, which should have minimal direction from Ministers 
  • internationalisation is not at the forefront of the development of the bank or recruitment of the Board members, however, it would be unlikely that members without international experience would be recruited 

Key points from discussion:

  • should internationalisation of the economy be a mission in its own right?
  • the opportunity to internationalise our expertise on carbon neutrality will be huge and Scotland could help other countries in the world become greener
  • however, there was a discussion about needing to create the right enabling investment environment to make the transition to being carbon neutral in Scotland first. For example, a number of industries are making this transition, including whisky, but there are limits to what they can do if investment in the grid does not enable excess heat and power to be bought back or rail and road transport are not of a sufficient standard to adapt to new technology 

ACTION 8: Trade Board members to feed in their thoughts on the development of SNIB, particularly around internationalisation, via the Trade Board Secretariat.

Item 5: A.O.B. – Kevin Quinlan

No other business was declared by Board members.

Lesley Ward highlighted that the next meeting is on 11 December 2019 and will focus on overseas in–market support, looking at Scotland’s international footprint including SG and SDI to create a single united network. Phase 1 should be completed by April/May 2020 and there will be interim findings to share with the group at the meeting in December.

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