Scotland defies chancellor’s wooing with international trade chambers

Nathanael Williams

As UK chancellor tries to sway Scottish business, the Scottish Government makes a bid to expand trade beyond UK links

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT will expand its international trading links outside the UK by providing extra funding for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC).

SCC will receive up to £400,000 to deliver permanent trading alliances between chambers in Scotland and those in the international network, and to support new business-led trade missions on an international level.

The move follows the visit of the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond to Edinburgh in a bid to woo Scottish businesses and industry after the vote to leave the European Union (EU) in June, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s attempts to protect Scotland’s place within the 28 member state block.

“We are also appointing trade envoys and creating a new board of trade to promote exporters overseas and encourage new companies to internationalise.” Nicola Sturgeon

Announcing the new funding Sturgeon said: “Internationalisation is a key part of our economic strategy and we are stepping up efforts to raise Scotland’s profile and encourage more Scottish businesses to export. Scotland’s ability to benefit from international trade depends hugely on our continued place in the European single market – the biggest of its kind in the world – and we are exploring all avenues to maintain our membership of it.

“At the same time, we are establishing new hubs in London, Dublin, Brussels and Berlin to boost our business profile, while we will double the number of people working for Scottish Development International on mainland Europe. We are also appointing trade envoys and creating a new board of trade to promote exporters overseas and encourage new companies to internationalise. But we can still do more.”

The SCC currently has a membership of more than 11,000 companies and ties to more than 180 countries and Scottish Government officials are keen to see it act as an unofficial body of embassies promoting Scotland politically as well as economically. Its role is to connect small, medium and large sized business to international markets. 

Today [Friday 2 December] the first minister will give a speech to the SCC annual business address in Glasgow where she will be expected to express the importance of Scotland developing its trade outside its traditional boundaries. This comes in the context of Brexit negotiations that have witnessed the Scottish Government make overtures to European capitals in order to promote Scotland’s case for retained EU membership.

According to Scottish Government statistics for 2014, exports to the rest of UK from Scotland, excluding oil and gas, were estimated at £48.5bn – a majority of trade. Despite the UK chancellor making this point to Scottish business during his visit yesterday [Thursday 1 December] the Scottish Government have pointed out that trade to Europe and the rest of the world is growing. From 2014 to 2015 the top five international export markets were the USA, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Norway which all accounted for £10.8bn worth of trade from Scotland.

The next trade statistics review is due in early 2017. 

Liz Cameron, who is the director and chief executive of SCC, said: “Today’s announcement marks a significant new step in our long-standing drive to use the power of the international chambers network to drive more exports from Scotland.

“The Scottish Government’s very welcome support will help us to capitalise on the excellent work which our Network have been doing to build relationships with their counterparts in Italy, Iceland, the US, Mexico, Iran and many more. We are now ready to turbocharge that effort.”

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland, Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce

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