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Scotland’s trade position and performance


This paper provides a summary of Scotland’s trade position and performance using recently available data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Scottish Government (SG). It covers the key strengths and weaknesses that affect trade in Scotland along with some of the most important issues and opportunities to be faced in the future. It also considers the role of Scottish Development International (SDI) in shaping Scotland’s export performance.


The methodology consisted of analysis of ONS, SG and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, in addition to analysis of the recent evaluation of SDI international activities.


Scotland has seen an increase in exports in recent years, with a slight movement towards more international sales. The largest overseas export market is the EU. The report concludes that Scotland has a number of key strengths as a trading partner and that there are many opportunities to help instigate positive change. It outlines the findings of the recent evaluation of SDI, which found that it had significant economic impact and that the majority of what is delivered works very well. However, Scotland is still lagging behind many other OECD countries in terms of export performance. A lack of exporting companies has been highlighted as a contributing factor. Other barriers identified included a lack of ambition amongst companies to export. A number of risks that may impact on international trade were also identified, including Brexit and economic uncertainty. However, there were also a number of opportunities for Scotland, including global value chains, technological innovation and digital trade, and new markets. Going forward, the report notes that, with a renewed emphasis on partnership working across both public and private sectors, SDI is seeking to assist more companies to begin exporting. It also plans to explore some of the other trading opportunities that might be available to exporters in the future.


No recommendations were made.

Author Scottish Enterprise
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Internationalisation