Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.


Country brief

Ireland is an open globalised economy. Living standards are high and average wages are now comparable with the top tier of OECD countries. 

The economy is projected to continue expanding over the next two years although at a slower pace. Foreign-owned multinationals are one of the main drivers of Ireland’s economy.

Key market information

Economic indicators


GDP 2017*


GDP per capita 2017*


GDP annual growth rate 2013-2017


GDP annual growth forecast 2018-2023


Population 2017


Projected population growth 2017-2050 (% change)


Average tariff 2016


Scotland’s exports to Ireland


Scotland’s exports to Ireland 2017


Average annual growth in Scotland’s exports to Ireland 2013-2017


Country rank in Scotland’s exports 2017


Scotland’s top export sectors to Ireland, 2017**

Together, these sectors account for around 71% of goods and services exports to Ireland.
     1. Chemical Sciences
     2. Wholesale and Retail Trade
     3. Technology, Digital and Media
     4. Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing

Ireland imports from the world


Ireland goods and services imports 2017*



Ireland average annual Import growth 2013-2017*



Ireland Top 15 Import Sectors

Ireland Top 15 Import Sectors Chart

Sources: economic indicators (World Bank, IMF World Economic outlook), Scotland’s Exports (Export Statistics Scotland 2017), 

Country Imports (World Bank, UN Comtrade)

* denotes an indicator which has been converted into GB£ from US$ using the Bank of England’s average annual spot rate data.  Note growth rates may vary depending on unit of currency used.

** These figures have been suppressed to prevent disclosure.

The Irish Economy

Ireland is an ideal first step market for Scottish companies. Top sectors in Ireland include food & drink, IT & business services and renewable energy. 

There are export opportunities for Scottish businesses with high quality, competitively priced products and services, across all sectors in Ireland, particularly food & drink, ICT, construction, life sciences and energy.

Key economic indicators are:

  • The Irish economy has been growing well at 6.7% of GDP in 2018. (OECD)
  • Exports as a percentage of Ireland’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) were 121% in 2018. (OECD)
  • Unemployment is relatively low at approximately 6.7% in 2017. (OECD)

Ireland is a member of the European Union(EU), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international bodies. Goods manufactured in Scotland are exempt from import duties.

The Department for International Trade’s guide to doing business in Ireland can be found here

Strengths of the Irish market include:

Ireland ranks 23rd, dropping from 16th, out of 190 countries in the World Bank rankings for ease of doing business in 2018. 

  • Strong, developed economy 
  • Highly educated workforce 
  • Open economy

Benefits for Scottish businesses exporting to Ireland include:

  • English is the first language
  • Strong transport links
  • Similar regulatory and legal framework
  • Close to market

What Scotland exports to Ireland

Ireland is Scotland’s closest International trading partner and 5th largest export market with exports worth £1.5bn going to Ireland in 2017. This represents 4.5% of Scotland’s total International exports. 

(Export Statistics Scotland)

The top 5 Scottish export sectors to Ireland are:

  • Food and drink
  • Technology, Digital and Media
  • Wholesale and Retail
  • Life and Chemical Sciences
  • Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing

Priority sectors in Ireland for economic development include:

  • Life sciences
  • Renewable energy 
  • ICT
  • Construction

Sectoral Opportunities

When compared to the export performance of comparator countries (Norway, Finland and Denmark), Ireland presents potential export opportunities in the following subsectors:

  • Transportation Equipment
  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Computer Programming and IT

Infographic showing top opportunities in Ireland

What support is there for Scottish businesses in Ireland

Scottish Government Network of External Offices and Scottish Development International

The Scottish Government opened their office in Dublin, in February 2016 to seek to build on the pre-existing links between Ireland and Scotland and to serve as our representation in Ireland. 

The office in Dublin aims to bring together the Scottish Government and its agencies, as well as public and private partners to:

  • promote trade and investment links;
  • strengthen government-to-government relations; and,
  • enable greater collaboration on economic, academic and innovation projects.

Scottish Development International is co-located with the Scottish Government office and has 1 member of of staff focused on the technology and life sciences sectors. 


There are currently 3 GlobalScotsin Ireland covering the tech and life sciences sectors. Ireland is a priority country for expansion of the GlobalScot network.

Department for International Trade

Contact the Department for International Trade (DIT) team in Ireland for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Ireland.

The British Irish Chambers of Commerce are able to offer member businesses support, advice and in-market introductions to member businesses.

University links

The Scottish Funding Council met with the Science Foundation Ireland, and with the Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation in Autumn 2018 to discuss the possibility of further R&I partnerships to better link Scottish and Irish academia and businesses and discussions are ongoing, including the Scottish Innovation Centre.

The Irish university sector including University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and Dublin

City University have collaborations with several Scottish universities. The University of 

Edinburgh and University College Dublin signed a Memorandum of Agreement, including funding to support collaborative research in Autumn 2018 focused initially on Geosciences, migration studies and “one health”. 

The University of Glasgow is leading on the SalmoSim project which aims to build an artificial salmon gut to better understand fish digestion. The three year project will work in collaboration with the Marine Institute and University of Cork in Ireland as well as Nofima, Alltech and Marine Harvest.


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