Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.

5.1 Scotland's international footprint

Some of the most significant changes we expect to see as result of this plan are the change in extent, nature and connectivity of Scotland’s international footprint.

Actions to boost Scotland’s overseas offer include:

1. Additional SDI in-market specialists in priority markets

2. The revitalisation and significant expansion of our GlobalScot network so that it is more accessible and can bring Scotland to the world as well as bringing business to Scotland 

3. Expansion of our Trade Envoy network in key markets

4. A clear role for our vast alumni networks

5.1.1 Scottish Development International (SDI)

With 30 offices in 20 countries the SDI overseas network is our primary platform to deliver in-market support to Scottish businesses.

SDI has a presence in the priority markets identified in this plan and has already started to make adjustments to their in-market resources so that they are equipped to deliver our export ambitions.

The addition of food and drink sector specialists located in key markets has been recognised as a key positive development in driving our exporting activities. These specialists are able to provide sector specific advice and market intelligence to exporting businesses. This model is now being rolled out to the energy sector and it will be evaluated to consider how best to add further in-market sector specialists across these and other sectors in key markets.

SDI will restructure and refocus in-market to:

1. Separate into specialist divisions for export and investment attraction work building on a successful pilot in the food & drink sector.

2. Shift the majority of their resource into priority markets that offer the biggest opportunities for Scotland’s sectoral strengths. 

3. Identify opportunities to add to the team of in-market sector specialists where they will add most value in our priority markets and sectors.

5.1.1 Scottish Government’s external network of offices

In addition to the in-market presence of our enterprise agencies, the Scottish Government’s external network of offices provide a platform for, and a more joined up approach to, existing and new activity by government, partners and businesses to increase exports and attract investment to Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s external network of offices are located in China, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, UK, USA and Canada. The network delivers and supports activity by the Scottish Government, its agencies and public and private partners in key locations outside Scotland, building on established expertise. 

The scale, scope and focus of this activity varies depending on the specific opportunities in a particular location, however, as a whole, the network is tasked with:

1. Improving Scotland’s international profile.

2. Attracting investment to Scotland.

3. Helping businesses to trade internationally.

4. Promoting and securing Scottish research and innovation capability, partnerships and funding.

5. Protecting and enhancing Scotland’s interests in the EU and beyond.

As well as the tasks listed above, our offices will be upskilled to undertake economic diplomacy work, where they can help identify barriers to Scottish exports and, in conjunction with Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DIT partners, take actions to mitigate them. 

5.1.2 Ministerial support for exporters in-market

Ministerial visits and trade missions have an import role in facilitating exports from Scotland, as well as supporting our inward investment activities. The presence of a minister can open doors in government and in the business community which can facilitate trade, raise Scotland’s international profile and enhance our reputation, as well as providing strategic opportunities to engage with the parent businesses of some of our key exporters in their domestic market.

The Scottish Government and its agencies will use this plan to direct resource and effort into supporting defined trade and investment objectiveswhere ministerial intervention and support adds value.

Typically we will ask ministers to:

1. Lead export missions or events: where a ministerial-led delegation to a key country or event can add profile to our events, open doors, and help progress our objectives.

2. Help close deals where this can involve providing government encouragement or assurances so that a business decision be taken. 

3. Provide economic diplomacy where the minister can meet in-market institutions and build a greater understanding of Scotland.

4. Meet existing inward (and capital) investors to help ensure continued investment or increased investment.  As many inward investors are also exporters of goods and services from Scotland, this also supports our export growth objectives.

5. Meet new inward (and capital) investors to help businesses/investors understand the Scottish market. 

The Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation will undertake monthly overseas visits to markets. Other ministers will also undertake trade and investment activity and the above objectives will help shape their interventions.

Whether the weight of a visit pivots around opening doors (facilitating access to decision makers) or raising Scotland’s profile overseas (positioning Scotland effectively at key global events) we will work hard to ensure the business case for requesting ministerial participation demonstrably moves forward a clearly articulated inward investment relationship or advances an export campaign. 

5.1.3 Trade Envoys

The Trade Envoy network was established in 2017. Trade Envoys are honorary appointees of the Scottish Government working in a non-political capacity to represent Scotland in promoting its trading interests and to support the growth of Scottish exporting businesses. They are a key part of Scotland’s overseas network. Their primary focus is to identify strategic opportunities for Scottish businesses and, as appropriate, to represent the Scottish Government overseas when ministers are unavailable. Typical Trade Envoy duties can include:

1. Identifying specific business opportunities and liaising with SDI and others to make appropriate connections with businesses in Scotland.

2. Providing market intelligence, helping to build greater awareness of the target sectors and businesses in those countries.

3. Building relationships with key decision makers and influencers within businesses, local trade and government organisations and helping Scottish businesses and organisations to establish connections.

4. Hosting events, including trade missions and visits from Scotland. 

5. Accompanying Scottish Government ministers on trade visits, or to substitute for ministers representing Scotland in such visits where appropriate (noting the non-political nature of the envoy role).

There are currently four Trade Envoys, who were appointed in late 2017, for an initial term of two years. They are:

  • Wendy Alexander, Vice Principal, University of Dundee
  • Nicholas Maclean, Managing Director – CBRE, Middle East North Africa & Turkey in Dubai
  • Ainsley Mann, chief representative of Swire Properties and Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia
  • Martyn O’Reilly, a wealth management professional, based in Poland

The Trade Envoys report to the Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation and are supported by the Directorate of International Trade and Investment.

The Scottish Government will continue to develop the network of Trade Envoys to support Scotland’s aspiration to grow exports. Our priority is to grow the Trade Envoy network to represent:

1. Markets where there are significant cultural, linguistic and business differences.

2. More distant markets that are less visited by ministers.

3. Specific sectors of established growth markets where we perceive our export performance is lacking.

4. Growing emerging markets where we do not yet have a permanent Scottish trade development presence.

The expansion of the network will be subject to identifying and recruiting suitable candidates.

We will:

• Evaluate the existing Trade Envoy network with a view to trebling the number of Trade Envoys from the current 4 to 12, subject to a review of the current arrangements and the identification of candidates with the right knowledge, experience and connections in the right markets.

5.1.4 Working with the Department of International Trade

The UK government provides a range of support for exporting businesses across the globe. This includes the efforts of the Department of International Trade (DIT), as well as UK government Trade Commissioners who cover specific geographies. These resources are, of course, paid for by Scottish taxpayers and are tasked with supporting all UK businesses to increase exports.

The focus of DIT is built around key UK priority sectors, High Value Campaigns and large exporters. These do not always align well with the needs of Scottish businesses and sectors. Food and drink, a key Scottish export sector, for example, is not included as a DIT priority sector and much of Scotland’s focus will be on developing exports from our SME base in addition to existing large exporters. For those reasons our approach will be to leverage DIT resource where it can support our export plan activities and to continue to drive Scottish business needs as far up the DIT agenda as we can, while using Scotland’s international presence to support our export plan priorities.

In particular, we will ensure that UK government colleagues leading on development and delivery of high value campaigns, the Industrial Strategy and sector deals are aware of the priorities in this plan and of the strength of the Scottish businesses behind them.

We will ensure that connections between our partners in-market are made to ensure that businesses based in Scotland receive their share of support from DIT, particularly in markets where we do not have a dedicated Scottish presence.

We will also ensure that businesses based in Scotland are fully aware of the support that is available to them through the Department for International Trade and well positioned to take advantage of it. We will build on good practice in the development of digital tools and ensure that there is no wrong door for businesses to access the export support that they need, whomever is providing it.

We will:

  • Ensure that Scottish businesses are front and centre in the development of DIT high value and other campaigns. 
  • Maintain links with UK government Trade Commissioners to ensure they are aware of Scotland’s export priorities. 


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