Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.

1.5 Our ambitions

Scotland’s National Performance Framework defines the outcomes and key performance indicators which guide government policy.

National Performance Framework Graphic

A Trading Nation will make a positive contribution to a number of the National Performance Framework outcomes. In particular:

Economy – We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy.

International – We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally Fair work and business – We have thriving and innovative businesses with quality jobs and fair work for everyone.

The value of Scotland’s international exports is a national indicator of economic performance. However, simply looking at the headline value is not sufficient. We know that exports as a percentage of Scotland’s GDP has remained flat for many years and lags behind comparator countries.

To really determine whether our interventions are having a positive impact on the economy we will focus on tracking the percentage of our GDP that comes from international exports and making this our key measure of success.

This approach was supported in the Sustainable Growth Commission report published last year. 

The report suggested that;

“Increasing overseas exports from 20% of GDP to 40% of GDP would be a reasonable target to set in order to close the export gap with small advanced economy benchmark countries, implying an increase from under £30 billion to more than £60 billion.”

As a first step towards that longer term ambition we will set a target of increasing exports to 25% of our GDP by 2029. 

The UK Government Export Strategy published in August 2018 also adopts a long term national ambition to grow the share of UK GDP from exports from 30% to 35%. In current performance terms the UK is at the mid-point in the G7 rankings, in a similar position to France, Italy and Canada but substantially behind Germany. 

When Scotland is compared with other medium sized open economies like Norway, Finland Denmark and New Zealand our performance by this measure lags substantially behind.


Exports as % of GDP 2017









New Zealand

27% (2016)

Source: World Bank and Quarterly National Accounts Scotland. 2017 data for New Zealand unavailable

While tracking international exports as a percentage of GDP is important as an overall measure, there are other influencing factors in the wider business support environment that create the conditions for exporting to thrive.

We will:

  • Work with colleagues across government, our enterprise agencies and with other delivery partners to co-produce a performance monitoring framework. This will build on existing KPIs and performance data and learn from international experience to develop a range of specific and measurable indicators to track Scotland’s export performance and progress towards achieving our ambition.
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