Why Scottish businesses should be eyeing the overseas opportunity - comment

Gardner notes that one Scottish producer capitalising on overseas demand is Mackies of Scotland. Picture: contributed.
Gardner notes that one Scottish producer capitalising on overseas demand is Mackies of Scotland. Picture: contributed.
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The footprint of Scottish businesses overseas’ trade is growing.

Our reputation for quality goods and services helped the value of Scottish exports increase for the third consecutive year in 2018, and 2019 looks to build on that yet again.

According to HM Revenue & Customs, in the 12 months to June 2019 Scottish exports totalled £34 billion, up 15 per cent on the previous year, showing that “Brand Scotland” is going strong. This represents a huge opportunity for ambitious businesses.

Diversifying into new markets and customer bases could make a firm more profitable and resilient.

Undeniably, the jewel in the Scottish exporting crown is food and drink. Our lochs, fields and seas offer a rich harvest of produce that has gained a reputation worldwide for quality, taste and provenance. Ambitious firms in the sector were key in food and drink exports with a value of £3bn in the year to June 2019.

One Scottish producer capitalising on overseas demand is Bank of Scotland customer Mackie’s of Scotland. The business posted record turnover in June thanks to sales in Asia doubling. This is due to the popularity of its “traditional” flavoured ice cream being used as a substitute for milk and cream.

But it’s not just food and drink flying the flag for Scotland. Our expertise in renewables is also making waves. According to Scottish Renewables, 72 countries benefit from Scotland’s knowledge of renewable energy, with Scottish businesses employing staff in 22 of these markets.

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More than half of renewable energy businesses surveyed by Scottish Renewables are currently targeting customers overseas and just under a third (29 per cent) are considering it.

Bank of Scotland hosted an event for Scottish International Week where I was part of a panel discussing the opportunities available for Scottish businesses with a global mindset. It was clear that each exporting journey is different. This is why any business considering exporting should seek advice and support from experts.

Bank of Scotland’s International Trade Portal helps businesses identify the markets best suited to their products and services. It provides information on considerations like trade tariffs and links exporters with potential buyers.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is another useful resource. Bank of Scotland works in partnership with the government agency though our Export Working Capital Scheme, helping businesses access funding to support contracts with overseas buyers. UKEF guarantees up to 80 per cent of the limit of working capital facilities provided through the scheme.

Bank of Scotland has relationship managers on hand for every step of the process. And we’ve committed to providing up to £1.6 billion of lending this year to help Scottish businesses prosper – both at home and overseas.

Alasdair Gardner is head of commercial banking at Bank of Scotland