Trends in Scottish exports: 2010 to 2019               

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The latest Exports Statistics Scotland (ESS) publication from the Scottish Government was published on the 21 October 2021. This blog takes a looks at these data to see what they tell us about where Scotland is exporting to, what is been exported and how exports have changed over the last ten years. It also looks at what the data can tell us about how exports are performing against the targets in the Government’s export strategy (Scotland: A Trading Nation).

About the data

The latest publication is for up to 2019. The main source for the ESS is the Global Connections Survey (GCS). The GCS is administered by the Scottish Government and sent to 6,000 businesses in Scotland each year, targeted at the most export intensive companies. Other data are then used to enhance the GCS including surveys such as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Monthly Business Survey and the International Trade in Services Survey (ITIS), and various administrative data sources, including the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) produced Overseas Trade Statistics.

The Scottish Government produces a useful frequently asked question section in their About Export Statistics Scotland.

Where do Scottish exports go?

In 2019, total Scottish exports were worth £87 billion. In cash terms, this represented an increase of £3.6 billion from 2018, or 4.3%. In real terms (an adjustment removing the effects of inflation) this is an increase of £1.9 billion or 2.3%. So, where do these exports go?

Exports to the rest of the UK accounted for £52 billion, or 60%, of total exports. However, over the last 10 years, the proportion of exports going to the rest of the UK has fallen, from 65% in 2010.

Total international exports were worth £35 billion in 2019, with £16 billion going to the EU and £19 billion going to non-EU destinations.

The total value of exports has increased by £5.7 billion or 7% in real terms since 2010. Within that:

  • rUK exports have fallen by £730 million, or 1.4%.
  • total international exports have increased by £6.4 billion, or 22.3%.
  • exports to the EU have increased by £3.6 billion or 28%.
  • non-EU exports have increased by £2.8 billion or 17.9%.
Four area charts showing how Scottish exports in have changed between 2010 and 2019 in real terms to the rest of the UK, total international exports, the EU and Non-EU destinations.

What does Scotland export?

The two main areas of exports for Scotland are services, 49% of all exports, and manufacturing, 34% of all exports. The last 17% is made up of: Utilities (9%), Mining and quarrying (4%), Construction (2%) and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (2%).

In 2019,  services exports were worth £43 billion, Manufacturing was worth £29 billion, and ‘Other’ exports were worth £15 billion. Since 2010, in real terms, we can see that:

  • services have increased by £3.6 billion, or 9.1%.
  • manufacturing has fallen by £850 million, or 2.8%.
  • other exports have increased by £2.9 billion, or 24.4%.
Three area charts which show how Scottish exports by high level sector have changes between 2010 and 2019.

Which exports go where?

Most services exports (68%) go to the rest of the UK. However, in real terms they have remained broadly flat since 2010, falling by £200 million, or 0.6%.  Total international Services exports have increased by £3.8 billion, or 37.7%.

Most manufacturing exports (63%) go to international destinations. Total international manufacturing exports have increased by £2.2 billion, or 13.3%, since 2010 in real terms. However, manufacturing exports to the rest of the UK have fallen by £3.0 billion, or 21.7%.

Most of the rest of the value of ‘other’ exports goes to the rest of the UK. 51% of the value of these exports in 2019 came from Utilities. ‘Other’ export to the rest of the UK increased in real-terms by £2.5 billion, or 25.7%, since 2010. Total international exports increased by £466 million, or 19.6%.

Three line charts which show how Scottish exports have changed between 2010 and 2019 in real-terms by destination and high-level sector.

Scottish Government target

One of the targets in the Scottish Government’s exports strategy,  Scotland: A Trading Nation, is to increase the value of Scottish international exports to be equivalent to 25% of GDP by 2029. Despite an increase of £3.6 billion between 2018 and 2019, the value of total international exports in 2019 was equivalent to 21% of Scotland on-shore GDP.

A bar chart show what the value of total  Scottish international would be compared to Scottish on-shore GDP.


The latest statistics show encouraging signs that exports up to 2019 continued to grow. However, with the double impact of the UK leaving the EU, and the COVID-19 pandemic yet to be included in these statistics, it is difficult to predict what the future path of these statistics will be. However, there are early indications of a decline in Scottish Enterprise’s 2020/21 Annual Report, where planned international export sales support by Scottish Enterprise decreased from £2.22 billion in 2019-20 to £1.16 billion in 2020-21.

Andrew Aiton, Data Visualisation Manager