What do the latest HMRC Regional Trade Statistics tell us about exports of Scottish goods? (Q1 2019)

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On Wednesday 10 July, HMRC published their latest regional trade statistics which provides data on trade in goods. This blog looks at these statistics.

During 2018/19, “Mineral fuels” were the most valuable export from Scotland. At £12.5 billion, they accounted for 38% of total exports. The following chart shows a breakdown of the value of goods exported from Scotland by product group.SPICe_2019_Blog_Exports_HMRCQ1_Total Value

The latest statistics show that Scottish exports increased by £3.8 billion, or 12.9%, between 2017/18 and 2018/19, to £32.8 billion. The following chart breaks down this growth by product grouping.

SPICe_2019_Blog_Exports_HMRCQ1_Increase by product

“Mineral fuel” exports, mainly oil and gas, accounted for £3.3 billion of the £3.8 billion increase. The next largest increase in exports was in beverages, which includes whisky, at £291 million. The largest decrease was in manufactured goods, which fell by £146 million over the year.

Oil exports

In 2018/19 oil and gas exports were worth £12.5 billion, up from £9.2 billion in 2017/18.

Oil prices are notoriously volatile therefore it makes sense to look at the volume of exports as well as the value.

Scotland exported 28.9 million tonnes of oil-based products in 2018/19, an increase of 2.4 million tonnes on the previous year. The following chart shows the destination of oil-based products in 2017/18 and 18/19 by volume. With the volume increasing by 9% but total value increasing by 36%, oil price change is clearly the most significant contributor to the overall increase in export values.

Hydrocarbon exports to the EU increased by £2.6 billion over the year while exports to the rest of the world increased by £700 million.

SPICe_Blog_201819_Exports_Oil Exports by region

Machinery & transport equipment

“Machinery & transport equipment” is the second most valuable export from Scotland at £7.2 billion. Within this, the largest export is power generation equipment at £2.6 billion. Most of the “Machinery & transport equipment” exports go to non-EU destinations.

Over the year, the value of “Machinery & transport equipment” exports grew by £91 million, or 1.3%. Road vehicle exports grew by £246 million, or 112%. The majority of road vehicle exports went to non-EU destinations, with exports to China increasing by £209 million over the year, from £49 million to £267 million.


Alcoholic beverages, mostly whisky, are the third most valuable export from Scotland at £4.4 billion. Over the year, exports in this sector grew by £290 million, or 7.0%.

Exports of beverages to non-EU destinations were worth £3 billion, while exports to the EU were worth £1.4 billion. Of the non-EU destinations North America was the most valuable, at £1.3 billion, with the US accounting for most of this.

SPICe_Blog_201819_Exports_Beverage exports by region

In terms of volume, beverage exports increased by 50,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes between 2017/18 and 2018/19, an increase of 5.1%. Exports to the EU increased by 18,000 tonnes, while exports to non-EU destinations increased by 32,000 tonnes. Most of this increase was in exports to Asia and Oceania.  The only area which saw a decrease in the volume of exports was North America, falling by 1.6%. However, the value of exports actually increased by 5.3%, or £66 million, possibly indicating a change in buying habits in the US towards more premium goods.


Exports in goods from Scotland saw impressive growth between 2017/18 and 2018/19, with the vast majority of this growth coming from an increase in oil and gas products. However, if we strip out oil and gas products, the value of Scottish exports still increased by 2.2%, which is closer to the average increase in exports across the UK.

SPICe_2019_Blog_Exports_HMRCQ1_Growth excluding oil and gas

A Trading Nation, the Scottish Government’s recently published exports growth plan, highlights energy as one of the sectors we should be selling more of internationally. The plan does not discuss oil and gas extraction per se, focussing instead on oil and gas support activities such as consultancy, engineering and equipment manufacture, areas where Scotland has developed decades of expertise thanks to our indigenous North Sea industry.

The plan re-iterates the benefits of increasing exports for Scotland’s economy as our companies becoming more innovative, productive and resilient. This blog indicates that the new export plan has a solid foundation of manufactured goods exports to build upon, but it also highlights some sectors which may require additional support to reach their full potential.

Andrew Aiton, Data Visualisation Manager, and Greig Liddell, Senior Researcher.