Ministerial Trade Board minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Trade Board on 19 September 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
  • Jonathan Edosomwan, Economic Adviser
  • Abigail Dornan, Assistant Economist
  • Catriona Galbraith, Policy Adviser
  • Lynne Dow, Private Office

Trade Board members

  • Eric Balish, ABC Bank
  • Iain Baxter, Scotland Food & Drink
  • David Currie, Proserv
  • Russell Dalgleish, Scottish Business Network
  • Gillian Docherty, University of Strathclyde
  • Simon Forrest, Nova Innovation
  • 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

UK Government Department for Business and Trade

  • Rachel Gwyon, Director UK Nations, Agriculture, Food & Drink

Fraser of Allander Institute

  • Mairi Spowage, Director of Fraser of Allander Institute


  • Richard Knox - Verlume
  • Gary White – IQVIA
  • Reuben Aitken, Managing Director SDI

Items and actions

Welcome back from Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone back, noted apologies, and gave a short overview of the agenda.

Officials provided a verbal update on actions from the meeting including references to the agenda for this meeting.

Action 1: Officials will share with the Board a diagram of how GlobalScots, Diaspora, and T&I Envoys interact with each other.

Action 2: Officials will give an update at next meeting on Green Freeports.

Action 3: Officials will share a draft register of interests disclosure form with the Board.

Update from Minister

The Minister updated on the recent publication of the PfG, the new deal for business, and set out his thoughts on how the Board could evaluate its operation.

Update on Scotland's Export Performance

SG Economists presented on the long-term trends in Scotland's export performance as requested by the Minister and the Board in June. Presentation covered trade in goods not services as per available data. The presentation noted:

  • the wider economic factors that have impacted the economy and that while the value of trade is increasing inflationary pressures are also impacting Scotland’s economy. The presentation noted Scotland has had quite strong growth from last few years compared to the UK, however the gap is narrowing. International comparisons show UK and Scotland are having slower growth than the Eurozone and G7 countries

Discussion noted:

  • broad acceptance that Scotland’s export  performance is strong, with more detailed discussion on how monitoring of both recovery and growth in Scottish exports could be best achieved
  • the performance of individual sectors, and the range of underlying factors impacting, both positively and negatively on that
  • the need to marry more granular company level data, including through more innovative data sources, with high level statistics to understand the sectoral dynamics of those underlying factors
  • the importance of services data to understand the full export picture
  • action 4: OCEA to explore changes in diversity of goods trade to the EU and its impacts on volumes and values of trade

Return on Investment

SG Economists presented on our approach to assessing the Return on Investment within A Trading Nation, which evaluates how effective our export support is at contributing to company sales and export growth.

Discussion focused on:

  • average age of the company, recognising some sectors could export from their first day, others were noted to take long to get to a stage ready to export
  • the benefits and risks on capitalising on existing export strengths or anticipating new future export growth potential. A balanced approach was recommended to allow diversification and resilience
  • noted that average age of exporting companies is higher than in other countries, acknowledged that exporting should be built into companies from the start
  • companies reported that export support has had a positive impact in their export performance
  • action 5: do further analysis of sectors and proportional contribution of sectors to Scotland’s export performance and the economic values of them such as high value indicators like jobs
  • importance of consistent language important, as some companies don’t always translate international sales as exports. May need to update exporting terminology as Board have spoken to companies that export but don’t recognise it as such
  • action 6: Officials to share final output of ROI work with the Board once published and how we progress to ATN target

Discussion on Board's Role and Remit

The Board took stock of their role and remit to advise on exports. Discussion noted:

  • while acknowledging the wider economic conditions are taking place in, how to improve exports within this context should remain the focus of the Board
  • awareness of wider strategic developments within SG and how they impact on ATN delivery to identify alignment is useful
  • board felt the subgroup approach has strong benefits but noted the time to commit essential
  • suggested the Board develop briefings on the issues their sectors face to better brief members not within those sectors
  • board expressed interest in being asked export related questions in advance of meetings to come with answers
  • minister asked what big game changers would impact exporting and whether future meetings should focus on this

Any other business

There was no AoB raised, the Chair closed the meeting

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