MSPs Examine Exports Agency Plan

MSPs have called on the agency tasked with helping Scottish companies to export overseas to be more ambitious.

Holyrood's Economy Committee is concerned that a new export support programme set up last year by Scottish Development International has set itself modest targets.

The programme, which will run until 2020, aims to support 1,000 firms each year, converting 200 non-exporters into new exporters and 200 passive exporters into active exporters.

A previous Smart Exporter programme provided training to 4,700 companies between 2011/12 and 2014/15.

The Scottish Government has a target to increase exports by 50% by 2017.

The committee's Internationalising Scottish Business inquiry was set up to explore the reasons why so many Scottish firms, particularly small medium sized enterprises, do not export.

MSPs were concerned by the fact that about 100 mostly larger companies account for 60% of Scotland's exports.

As well as more ambitious targets, the committee also wants more to be done to improve co-ordination, reduce duplication and eliminate unnecessary competition between organisers of trade missions.

It also found that companies seeking help to export can find the wide range of information available confusing and recommended that the single portal already under way must be developed further and promoted actively to businesses.

Committee convenor Murdo Fraser 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.''

Paul Lewis, managing director of Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise International Operations, said: "We welcome this report and are pleased that the Committee has recognised the significant increase in the number of companies we've been supporting to trade internationally.

"Expanding Scotland's export base is crucial to the growth of our economy, we are hugely ambitious about internationalisation and it continues to be the cornerstone of our business plan.

"We will examine the recommendations carefully and continue discussions with the Scottish Government and other partners around the new trade and investment strategy.''

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