But it’s not all whisky, oil and smoked salmon – although whisky exports come to £3.9 billion – Edinburgh is doing big business in fashion, technology and financial services.
The latest government figures show Scotland’s international exports – excluding gas and oil – rose by 5.6 per cent to £26bn in 2012 and UK exports were £47.6bn.
America is still Scotland’s top market place but Chinese exports hit their highest ever level in 2013, at £560 million.
David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Scotland accounts for less than one per cent of the population of Europe but punches above its weight when it comes to trading with the 28 European member states and further afield.”
He praised the growth at Edinburgh Airport as “a critical success factor” as well as the influx of foreign students at the city’s universities.
Small and medium enterprises that export are now 34 per cent more productive in their first year and 11 per cent more likely to survive, according to Scottish Enterprise, which runs a Smart Exporter programme.
International operations director Neil Francis said: “Exporting is absolutely critical to Scotland. As a small country we have to be able to trade beyond our borders to grow our economy.
“We find that some businesses starting out on this international journey have a lot of preconceptions about global trade and in general they tend to overestimate the risks and underestimate the benefits.
“So what we really have to do is offer them exciting examples of success that will give them a clear, realistic understanding of the risk-to-benefits equation.”#
USA: £3.6 billion
Netherlands: £2.7 bn
France: £2.2 bn
Norway: £920 million
Rep. of Ireland: £815m
Top five international export markets accounted for 42 per cent of all international exports from Scotland.
Products fill shelves all over world
NAIRN’S: The Peffermill-based oatcakes titan exports its range of biscuits and crackers to 40 countries all over the world, ranging from Norway to Hong Kong. International exports make up around eight per cent of Nairns’ sales. Martyn Gray, managing director at Nairns, said: “Apart from the Middle East where we do really well, it seems to be English speaking countries where our products sell well. If we are marketing our products abroad the basic ingredients are the same but the packaging will change. It’s absolutely crucial the people you are talking to understand the market and understand the consumers so they can see how your products will do. It’s a big world out there and it is important that we are using the local knowledge to understand what we are getting into. We definitely hope to expand. That’s not so much looking for new countries, it’s more about working with what we have and increasing our offer.”
LINGO24: Torphichen Street-based translation firm Lingo24 is one of the fastest growing businesses of its kind in the world. Set up by Christian Arno in 2001, the company now receives 60 per cent of its sales coming through export markets. Lingo24, whose revenues now exceed £7.5 million, won two accolades at the inaugural BQ Scottish Export Awards this year – Scottish Exporter of the Year and the International Trade Best Professional Service Advisor award.
ENDURA: Cycling clothing specialists Endura was founded in 1992 by keen cyclist Jim McFarlane and has grown to become the largest cycling brand in the UK. It produces high-quality cycle wear and accessories from its factory in Livingston and has expanded to include bonded warehouses in Shanghai, and distributors spreading across Russia, South Africa and Australia.
BEBAROQUE: Strutting its stuff at London and Paris fashion weeks, Edinburgh label Bebaroque is one of the city’s leading lights in exporting. The company was founded in 2007 by designers Mhairi McNicol and Chloe Patience, whose embellished leggings and tights are now being stocked all over the world. The Glasgow School of Art graduates identified their top five stores in each market – usually the most luxurious department stores – and approached them as potential stockists. Bebaroque’s colourful tights are now filling the shelves of a string of international high-end department stores such as Poco a Poco in Japan, and Style House in Qatar.
TOP 10 EXPORT INDUSTRIES
Food and beverages: £4.7 billion
Manufacture of coke, refined petroleum and chemical products: £4.1bn
Legal, accounting, management, architecture, engineering, technical testing and analysis: £1.7bn
Wholesale retail, repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles: £1.7bn
Financial and insurance: £1.4bn
Manufacture of machinery and equipment: £1.2bn
Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products: £1.1bn
Manufacture of transport equipment: £990 million
Administrative and support service activities: £990m
Transport and storage: £710m
Top five industry sectors account for 52 per cent of total international exports from Scotland.