Scottish exporting ‘at risk’ from UK EU exit

SCOTTISH exporting would be “extremely adversely affected” if the UK leaves the EU, a former trade minister has warned MSPs.

Scottish exporting would be 'extremely adversely affected' if the UK left the EU. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Brian Wilson said 330,000 jobs in Scotland are dependent on exporting to Europe, and he told Holyrood’s Economy Committee that a vote to leave would be “bonkers”.

David Cameron has pledged to stage an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if the Conservatives get voted into power in the general election.

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Mr Wilson, who wrote a review of Scottish international trade for the Scotland Office, said: “If you ask me for a personal view I think it would be bonkers to come out of Europe... I think Scottish exporting would be extremely adversely affected, and I have no doubt in due course that every company and every trade union that has a vested interest in ensuring that jobs and prosperity are maintained will say so.”

The former Labour politician was giving evidence to the committee on internationalising Scottish business.

His review, published last May, suggested a new “single portal” approach should be taken to help potential exporters in Scotland access advice and support.

Mr Wilson said UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), Scottish Development International (SDI) and the private sector could enter a collaboration, called Scottish Exports, to help businesses.

He told the committee that while his review had been written at a time of “political sensitivity”, the difficulties experienced by some companies in finding advice or support still exist.

“Deficiencies I identified were there throughout that period and they are still there to be addressed,” he said.

He told the committee there was not a “conscious problem which arose out of constitutional disagreement” between UKTI and SDI.

“On the other hand common sense would suggest it was not a time conducive to maximum co-operation,” he said.

“In some respects that probably did affect the last few years, there is no reason for it to affect things now.

“Any sensible person looking at this subject must come to the conclusion that it is better to take the strengths of both organisations.”