Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.

6.7 Connectivity to markets

Transport Scotland’s report Transporting Scotland’s Trade demonstrated that the robustness of 

Scotland’s transport infrastructure is key in supporting our ability to trade internationally. The Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy, currently under review, will also consider gateways for export freight.

Scotland has had a trade surplus in goods for the past six years. This further emphasises the importance of maintaining a resilient transport network that will continue to support Scottish trade as we significantly ramp up the volume of our exports.

A safe, efficient, effective and sustainable transport system, for both passengers and freight, remains one of the key enablers for sustainable economic growth.

6.7.1 Air routes

We recognise the vital importance of a strong international air route network that connects Scottish businesses to their customers. Scotland currently has direct international air routes to 37 countries(14).

Scotland has enjoyed significant growth in international air routes over the past 10 years. Scheduled services to international destinations have more than trebled since 2001. However, we do not have as many direct long haul flights when compared to similar sized European nations.

A cross-government partnership, including Transport Scotland, VisitScotland and the enterprise agencies, is working closely with Scotland’s airports to address that and to help attract and retain viable international services which can be sustained over the long term, targeting both long and short haul services that will have the greatest impact on economic growth.

The three key drivers for this work are:

  • Enhancing international connectivity to allow Scottish businesses to increase their earnings from markets outside of the UK.
  • Enhancing connectivity to make Scotland more attractive to potential inward investors.
  • Enhancing international connectivity to allow Scotland to attract more inbound tourism.

Where direct services are not commercially viable in the short term we will continue to seek better access to global hub airports like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid (for Latin America), Dubai, Doha, and Heathrow. Current priority markets for route development include:

  • the USA, particularly the west and the Pacific Coast.
  • China, particularly around Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
  • India, particularly the regions around Mumbai and Delhi.

We will:

Explore the viability of improving air services to commercial centres in priority export growth markets such as: • Poland

  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • Japan
  • Turkey

6.7.2 Ports and freight

In 2017 the Scottish transport network supported £53bn of trade. The vast majority of that trade is transported by road and sea. Our road freight exports are overwhelmingly to destinations in England. The volume of sea and rail freight exports is declining (in line with our changing economy) and air freight exports are small but growing. Seaports carry most of the volume of our international exports.

We are working with Transport Scotland to better assess and understand how Scotland uses its road, rail, air and sea capacity to transport goods outside Scotland and what the implications are of significantly increasing the volume of our exports to ensure that we address those.

We will:

  1. Continue to work with Transport Scotland to explore how the National Transport Strategy can support and complement this plan and particularly to ensure that Scotland’s transport network is able to support our export growth ambitions. 
  2. Consider how we ensure gateways to and from domestic and international markets are resilient and integrated into the wider transport networks to encourage people to live, study, visit and invest in Scotland.
  3. Consider support measures to improve sustainable surface access to Scotland’s airports and seaports. 



(14) Air routes are subject to constant change and some routes are seasonal.

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