David Mundell Cites Trade Figures In Arguing UK 'Is Vital Union For Scotland'

25 January 2017, 12:08 | Updated: 25 January 2017, 12:14

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Scottish sales to the rest of the UK were worth almost £50 billion in 2015 - four times as much as sales to the European Union.

New figures published by the Scottish Government showed sales to other parts of Britain increased by £2.1 billion (4.4%) over the year, to an estimated £49.8 billion.

Exports to other countries in the EU also grew by 4.4%, to an estimated £12.3 billion, a rise of £520 million on the previous year.

The figures, which do not include offshore oil and gas, show "the UK union is the vital union for Scotland'', according to Scottish Secretary David Mundell.

However Holyrood Economy Secretary Keith Brown argued "Scotland should not face a choice between exporting to the EU or UK''.

In the wake of the Brexit vote in 2016 Nicola Sturgeon and her government are fighting to keep Scotland in the single market - with the Scottish Government having already published a paper suggesting it could stay in the trading bloc even if the rest of the UK leaves.

The first minister has also warned Theresa May's intention to remove Britain from the single market "undoubtedly'' makes a second independence referendum more likely.

Mr Mundell said export statistics showed "businesses in Scotland sold £37.5 billion more in goods and services to their own market in the UK than they did to all 27 EU countries put together''.

The UK Government minister added: "Today's figures show the UK is the vital Union for Scotland, and highlight the importance of maintaining the UK market and preventing any new barriers to doing business across the UK as we leave the EU.

"We know the Scottish Government's constant talk of a second independence referendum is creating damaging uncertainty for the Scottish economy.

"I again call on the first minister to end that uncertainty by taking her threat of another referendum off the table and working with us to get the best deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK.''

In total Scottish international exports, excluding oil and gas, increased by £1 billion in 2015, to be worth £28.7 billion.

Mr Brown hailed that rise as "hugely encouraging'', but he added: "It is clear that since the vote to leave the European Union, we must continue to be seen to be a country that is outward facing and open for business.

"The EU market is eight times the size of UK market, which highlights the importance of remaining in the single market.

"I want to be clear that Scotland should not face a choice between exporting to the EU or UK. We can do both.

"We are working on an ambitious programme of internationalisation, including measures to broaden Scotland's export base and to grow exports beyond our traditional markets.''

To help achieve this the Scottish Government is bringing together entrepreneurs and business leaders in a new trade board, to be chaired by Mr Brown, which will work to increase the number of firms exporting their goods and services.

Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: "Re export figures, it is bogus to say Indy Scotland would not trade with rUK - and runs completely counter to arguments UKG making elsewhere.''

But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said while the "Tory plans for a hard Brexit risk damaging Scotland's economy'' she warned the "SNP government's own figures show that independence would be considerably worse''.

Ms Dugdale insisted: "These figures confirm that the UK single market is four times more important to Scottish jobs and the economy than the EU single market.

"It is simply a reckless nationalist gamble to put access to the UK single market, and all the jobs that depend on it, at risk. That's why the SNP must drop plans for a second independence referendum.

"Scottish Labour will not support any SNP plans for another referendum and if Nicola Sturgeon wants to stand up for Scotland's economy she will take that threat off the table.''

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat MP and former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "Today's statistics show the critical importance of keeping Scotland both in the UK and the EU. Anything less would cause real harm.''

He argued: "If Britain is to be pulled out of the single market and we put up barriers to our trade with Europe it would do huge damage to jobs and prosperity in Scotland.

"Similarly erecting a border between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom would result in a catastrophic loss in trade.

"With so much at stake, it's critically important that the British public are given a say over what happens next.

"The Liberal Democrats are clear.

"We demand a vote of the people on the final Brexit deal and without that we will not support triggering Article 50.''