The data used in this article are drawn from multiple sources which can be accessed here. Because Scotland is not a fully independent nation, data is not collected in the same way as nations referenced to such as Denmark and Norway’s etc as goods are recorded as they pass out of their borders. As a result, we have very little data on exports that is specific to Scotland. The Scottish Governments data is based on a survey of 1,300 companies, who’s responses are then extrapolated to produce an estimated exports total. We have used some of that data but also information from reports compiles for the Scottish Parliament by SPICe the Scottish Parliaments Information Centre.
HMRC also produces estimates for international goods exports and that is what we have used for the goods surplus graphic. Those figures include a calculation for oil and gas exports which is lower than the figure estimated by the Scottish Governments research. We have used the HMRC figures for all nations so that data compares “like with like” in terms of the separate UK nations.
We have used the phrase international goods exports repeatedly. To be clear: international means goods and services exported across international borders i.e. to non UK nations. Scotland is part of the UK and a nation cannot export to another part of itself, that we classify as UK inter-regional trade and we will investigate the size and impact of that internal UK trade separately.
You can also forget any arguments about Scotland’s the balance of trade because no one knows what it is. The Scottish Government does not collect data on imported services so any statement about the balance of trade is pure guesswork and speculation. It would also refer to Scotland as part of the UK and as the location services traded with the rest of the UK would change in both directions if Scotland were to become an independent nation, such calculations will not be possible till Scotland is an independent nation and companies are therefore required to report fully on imports and exports of both goods and services.
We mentioned the lack of major deep water container ports in Scotland and that as a result most Scottish goods have to travel through England to be exported from ports such as Felixstowe and the Port of Dover. Despite this creating trade friction, the port of exit from the UK does not change the export data as almost all oil and gas and all Scotch whisky etc is thus counted as a Scottish export, given it’s production location is clear and the Scottish figures are based on the ESS Export Statistics Scotland survey and not port data.
HMRC. (2019) UK Regional Trade in Goods Statistics: Fourth Quarter 2018. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-regional-trade-in-goods-statistics-fourth-quarter-2018
Export Statistics Scotland. (2019) Export Statistics Scotland 2017. Available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0054/00545619.pdf
Export Statistics Scotland. (2016) Export Statistics Scotland – Additional Tables: Exports by Destination (rUK, EU and Non-EU) 2002-2014. Available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00504383.xlsx
Scotch Whisky Association. (2018) Scotch Whisky Exports Analysis 2017. Available at: https://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/newsroom/scotch-whisky-exports-analysis-2017/
Scottish Enterprise. (2019) Survey of International Activity in the Oil and Gas Sector 2016/17. p.9 Available at: https://www.scottish-enterprise-mediacentre.com/resources/zt2wx-brssp-o332a-t1div-uc6jw
The Scottish Government. (2018) Development of Supply & Use Satellite Accounts for Extra-Regio Economic Activities. p.11. Available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00534208.pdf
The Scottish Government. (2018) Exports Hit Record £6 Billion. Available at: https://news.gov.scot/news/exports-hit-record-gbp-6-billion
The Scottish Government. (2018) Germany Hub Opens for Business. Available at: https://news.gov.scot/news/germany-hub-opens-for-business
Fraser of Allander Institute. (2017) Employment Supported by Scottish Export Demand. Available at: https://www.sbs.strath.ac.uk/economics/fraser/20170420/Exports-and-Employment-Scotland.pdf
Fraser of Allander Institute. (2018) Scotland in 2050: Realising our Global Potential. p.2. Available at: https://www.sbs.strath.ac.uk/economics/fraser/20180919/Scotland_in_2050_Realising_our_global_potential.pdf