Scotland’s Healthy Export Business

When I posted on the fact that Scotland’s export business does not depend on the UK as had been claimed by Alistair Darling (, one of the questions I was asked what export business Scotland has.

In the BBC today I noticed the Headline ‘Global Connections Survey: Exports rise by £1.6bn’ lurking at the bottom of Scottish section (  Today the Scottish Government released the Global Connections Survey which presents the figures for Scottish exports in 2011 (full report here, which showed that exports were up to record highs to both the rest of the UK and also to the rest of the world.  Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK showed a value of £45.5billion and to the rest of the world they were up to £23.9billion (a £1.6billion increase on 2010 which is what the headline relates to).

It is worth noting that none of these exports account for oil – which is good because I’ll treat that separately in the future as well.  A full breakdown of the exports to the rest of the world and rUK are shown in the Global Connections Survey, with the top 5 export sectors to the rest of the world being:

  1. Food and beverages (£4.2bn)
  2. Manufacture of coke, refined petroleum and chemicals (£3.7bn)
  3. Computer, electronic and optical products (£1.4bn)
  4. Financial and insurance activities (£1.4bn)
  5. Mechanical engineering (£1.4bn).

When you combine the various exports listed Scotland’s export value in 2011 was £69.4billion, and performing a quick calculation on that (with an exchange of £1=$1.58 and a Scottish population of 5.25m) shows that Scottish Exports Per Capita are $20,886.  This would put Scotland in the top 10 performing countries in the world showing that we have a very healthy export economy (  And remember, this doesn’t include any oil.

A surprising aspect from the figures presented today is that the percentage of our total export to the rest of the UK is 65.6%, which is smaller than Canada’s export to the US which sits at 73.7%.  It is argued by the UK government that Scotland’s export to the UK exists because we are all governed by Westminster but clearly Canada achieves a higher proportion of export trade with the US despite being fully independent from it.

I believe the best type of government will combine social values with sound business awareness.   When I attended the SNP Spring Conference in 2011 I was pleased to hear about the efforts that the Scottish Government were putting into our Food & Agriculture sector.  A specific target was set to grow this export business, ensuring that our wealth of fertile land is used to positive effect; keeping our bodies and economy healthy in parallel.  Unfortunately these positive measures and acts of government do not command much attention in the media.

So we have a good base to start from should we vote Yes in 2014 but there are still significant opportunities for Scotland to improve.  Scotland has a surplus of energy from our existing infrastructure, and the potential to create an energy surplus entirely from renewable energy creating export opportunities.  We have a surplus of fresh water (a natural resource that will almost become even more critical than oil over the next 100 years) which in itself creates further export opportunities.  We have a wealth of fertile land where we can grow our own consumption of locally produced high quality food products but the export potential will continue to grow for this.  I firmly believe that to achieve the maximum potential here we will need to have full control of our taxation and budget to ensure we move in an efficient manner.

The fact that many people in Scotland think that we have no industry, and associate our social problems with this perception, demonstrates the gross failing of our current system.   Scotland has a healthy and diverse economic wealth – it is time that was reflected in our overall standard of living and the health of our society.

About stuartmdarling

I live in Motherwell & work in Edinburgh in the Oil & Gas sector, which has been taking me around the world for 15 years now. My passion for politics and music go with me every step of the journey...
This entry was posted in Economy, Indyref context, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Scotland’s Healthy Export Business

  1. Damien Tonner says:

    Very interesting. This will be the main challenge for the yes campaign-getting the message out there and accepted that independence will lead to our wealth staying in Scotland. Until that happens our biggest export will remain our wealth to London and we will keep being told we, an oil, renewable and agriculture rich nation should be grateful that London keeps paying our benefits bill. All while the oil money is squandered serving only to perpetuate the UK’s north south divide in all it’s tragedy.

  2. Excellent Stuff, Stuart can you compute the figure of GDP with Oil.

    • Thanks. It is difficult to compute what the oil & gas sector would add as there are many aspects that come into it. Obviously including the oil & gas will prove to be a significant bonus – rest assured that I’ll follow up with a post that exclusively focuses on this.

  3. Interesting statistical breakdown and I agree with Damien above this will be the main challenge of the YES campaign to get this message over, it should be easy with these figures but with so much scepticism about I am glad we have another year and a half as by the 2012 & 2013 data will also be available!

  4. howie says:

    Is it not true that one of the great benefits over the last umpteen generations of the union for Scotland has been unrestricted trade? The latest export stats are very positive, but are only possible with an open market. What happens post-independence if Westminster leaves the EU?

    • Addressing this issue was really the core aim of this previous post:
      Certainly at the time of the Act of the Union in 1707 and for the ~250years of Empire that followed then there was access to an ‘open’ market that we would not otherwise have been able to tap (an interesting take on some of the history around 1707 in this essay: ). However since the 2nd World War the world has been a different place and we now effectively live in a global market. There is no question at all that we will remain in a free trade arrangement with the rest of the UK if / when Scotland votes for independence.
      With respect to the EU open market, it is quite possible that an independent Scotland will remain in the EU and have a separate arrangement with Westminster (should the UKIP movement successfully take the rest of the UK out of the EU). I’m not aware of any evidence which suggests that we’re advantaged by some form of unique ‘unrestricted trade’ thanks to our association with Westminster that other small European nations don’t have. I believe that is because no such evidence exists.

    • You mean open markets like the EU which Westminster threatening to pull out of ?
      Why would you think Scotland like any other small nation would not full participate in open markets?

      • howie says:

        I just worry that there is a mismatch between wanting and getting in this case. As open discussion progresses about a lot of the detail of Scottish independence, membership of the EU is not one area where there is any consensus. Whilst there is any risk of even spending just five years out in the wilderness this remains a huge worry for many.

  5. mark_time says:

    The export figures make for an interesting read and reveal a healthy growing export sector (although the report admits that the figures are heavily weighted by 50 large multinational companies that had a good year), Exports are only a part of the picture measuring the health of a country’s economy. Is there a comparable source of information on Scotland’s Import figures? Are there figures detailing the current level of UK government expenditure in Scotland? (To be replaced by internally generated expenditure if/when independence is achieved) What else is missing to balance the country’s budget? Will oil revenues alone be enough to fill the black hole left by the removal of UK government spend?

    • That’s a good question about the import statistics – I haven’t actually seen them anywhere. As I’ve commented in the post above Scotland is very well placed with a wealth of resources that would enable us to be self-sufficient in our supply of energy, water and food & agriculture – with enough left over to enable further export potential. For sake of comparison though here are the import / export stats for Norway: – I imagine we would have a similar balance with higher value for the exports.
      As shown in the links provided by Robert, Scotland is currently has a healthier economy than the UK as a whole – or even if being extremely reserved the economic balance is equivalent. The upshot of this is that there will be no ‘black hole’ to fill – in fact the numbers indicate that we will have a healthy budget to invest in future industries, economic growth and investment in society to address the imbalances that exist under our current political structure.

      • Robert says:

        Another interesting link: This video is a couple of years old but makes the point that when looking at the Scottish economy you have to take into account what is spent in Scotlands name that is not spent in Scotland and what is raised in Scotland but not in Scotlands name. The sums of money are vast. Things like the vast military underspend, BBC underspend, Crown estates, landing fees, governmental functions, ‘national’ projects like the Olympics, London cross rail, millenium dome, channel tunnel. Also North Sea goods and services:

        This is from a Commons ajournment secured by Nicholas Soames MP in November 2011:
        “The taxes forecast to be raised from the industry in 2011-12 include some £6 billion in income tax, national insurance contributions and corporation tax paid by the supply chain companies, with an additional £11 billion from taxes on production itself. That amounts to 25% of all the corporation tax received by the Exchequer. The production of indigenous oil and gas improved the balance of payments by £35 billion in 2011, thus halving the trade deficit, and the supply chain added another £5 billion to £6 billion with exports of oilfield goods and services. Incidentally, that is an aspect of the industry that is doing extremely well here and overseas, and it is flying the flag for Britain effectively.”

        That £6 billion covers Scotland’s last defict alone.

        Finally Scotland has around 90% of the oil fields but only 55% of the associated jobs.

        The outlook for the economy in an independent Scotland is really encouraging.

  6. Pingback: Scotland’s Healthy Export Business | Ghosts of Darien

  7. Pingback: series economics: Scotland economic foundations | we are northern lights

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