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Liz Cameron: It’s time to strengthen our global business connections

Liz Cameron

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sit at the heart of the Scottish economy, brimming with ambition, vim and vigour.

Some are drawn from the brave “Class of 2020-21” launched during the pandemic.

They have not only managed to grow rapidly in the face of an unprecedented economic downturn, but are in many cases run by a new breed of entrepreneurs – perhaps starting a business for the first time after being made unemployed or placed on furlough – who have had the drive, vision, and passion to take a different direction.

We can see at least some indications of this from Strathclyde Business School research, showing Scotland gradually climbing out of a long-time rut of poor business start-up rates.

Every connection offers Scottish businesses a chance to export more goods and services to more markets, and to secure greater foreign investment.”

The recently published Global Entrepreneurship Monitor revealed 250,000 Scots, or about one in 14 of us, recently became active in starting up some form of business.

This bucks Scotland’s long-term trend of low start-up rates and shows a new generation of businesspeople is entering the marketplace.

Many of these new firms are in the food and drink sector, adding to Scotland’s already prestigious reputation for luxury and hospitality, uniqueness, and quality.

Reaching ‘beyond domestic shores’

As the Scottish and global economies rebound, businesses are continuing to seek out new and exciting opportunities – even casting their nets beyond domestic shores to seek out new markets and bring their products and services to a worldwide audience.

The impact of the pandemic and the UK leaving the EU have severely disrupted international trade, and recovery will take time.

But while restrictions were placed on international travel and in-person trade missions, many of Scotland’s businesses have managed to pivot successfully to making vital connections in an online-only environment.

SCC clocks up 25 virtual trade missions

Scottish firms never took their eye off the ball when it came to building international links and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC)’s global international trade service has continued to operate throughout the pandemic.

It has successfully delivered 25 virtual trade missions and secured £3.3 million-worth of sales to date, with another £8m-worth of sales in the pipeline.

International trade and how businesses connect with each other globally have undoubtedly changed.

Food and drink is the largest industry for overseas exports in Scotland, so perfectly placed to capitalise on this country’s international reputation for quality.”

In the future, there will be a mix of virtual and in-person opportunities for firms to connect.

Every connection offers Scottish businesses a chance to export more goods and services to more markets, and to secure greater foreign investment.

This in turn allows our exports to continue to increase, and for Scotland’s economy and international profile to grow with them.

Food and drink is the largest industry for overseas exports in Scotland, so perfectly placed to capitalise on this country’s international reputation for quality.

The sector currently exports to 105 countries, with exports valued at a record £6.3 billion.

The food and drink industry is also a major contributor to Scotland’s economy, worth around £14bn a year and accounting for one in five manufacturing jobs.

Scotland has around 18,850 food and drink businesses, employing about 115,400 people.

One of the ways the SCC network is helping newly established and existing SMEs grow is by helping them to develop vital connections around the world.

Global opportunity

Starting in November, the SCC network will be leading a series of delegations to the World Expo in Dubai.

The event is a platform for Scotland to showcase skills, produce, expertise and innovation across a range of sectors on the global stage.

Along with the support of 30 local chambers across Scotland, SCC is using its global links through the international chamber network to set up meetings with hand-picked companies from around the world.

SCC is looking for more firms to join its trade mission to Dubai.

The Scottish Government has estimated more than 68% of future opportunities to grow this country’s exports are in 15 overseas markets, and every one of these is represented at the Dubai World Expo.

With global markets reopening, it is vital that we reconnect with these opportunities.

Scottish food and drink businesses will undoubtedly fit right in at the event in Dubai.

SCC’s November delegation will be showcasing the best of Scotland’s luxury products and experiences.

And we are still looking for businesses that are ready to take to the international stage.

‘Stepping stone’

The seven-day mission to the World Expo runs from November 27 to December 3.

It offers Scottish firms the chance to connect with hundreds of potential new partners in a single visit.

The Expo can be a stepping stone for Scottish businesses wanting to take their next stride forward.

To register to attend the event, interested firms should visit to find out how they can get involved in taking their businesses and Scotland to the world.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

Transforming the region’s food and drink production

Restoring global connectivity ‘key’ to Scotland’s economic recovery

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