More ambition needed to increase Scotland’s exports


The agency tasked with supporting Scottish companies to export needs to be more ambitious according to a report by the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee.

The Committee believes that the expansion of support to companies who have export potential is of vital importance if Scotland’s export performance is to be improved significantly.  A new export support programme which was set up in 2014 by Scottish Development International has only a modest target of support to companies.  

The Committee’s inquiry into Internationalising Scottish Business was set up to explore the reasons why so many Scottish firms, particularly small medium sized enterprises (SMEs) don’t export. 

The Committee also heard that trade missions were a key part of helping companies to break into overseas markets. However more must be done to improve co-ordination, reduce duplication and eliminate unnecessary competition between organisers of trade missions.  

Similarly, the plethora of information that exists to companies seeking to find help to export is confusing. Whilst this would not solve the issue of why so few companies export, the single portal already underway must be developed further and promoted actively to businesses.  

Convener of the Committee, Murdo Fraser MSP said: 

“From salmon to whisky to our universities, Scotland has had some real success stories overseas. Breaking into lucrative overseas markets can be time-consuming, costly and difficult to do.   

“Whilst there is positive work being undertaken to increase Scotland’s export potential, it was clear from the course of our inquiry that our agencies must be more ambitious. 

“The Committee believes this will help to deliver the step change Scotland needs if we are to replicate the success of some of Scotland’s most well-known international brands.” 


The Scottish Government has a target to increase exports by 50 per cent by 2017 but the Committee was concerned by the fact that these are concentrated heavily with a limited number of large firms; around 100 companies account for 60 per cent of Scotland’s exports.

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