Scottish exports rose in 2019 by more than £3.5 billion, buoyed by trade with the rest of the UK, new figures show.
Statistics published on Thursday by the Scottish Government show exports of £35.1 billion outside the UK, an increase of £1.1 billion (3.4%) during that year.
Trade with the rest of the UK totalled £52 billion, an increase of £2.5 billion (5%).
The increase to the rest of Britain was driven by a boost in electricity exports of around 33.6% (£1.8 billion), while the services sector accounted for a £725 million jump, the agricultural sector exported £1.1 billion – an increase of £230 million – while manufacturing exports dropped by £350 million.
The rest of the UK accounted for 60% of the total exports of Scotland.
Of international exports, £16.4 billion was to the EU, an increase of £420 million, while £18.7 billion was outside the EU, an increase of £730 million.
Exports to the EU increased due to a 33.9% jump in information and communication (£140 million), 25% in transportation and storage (£185 million) and 32.1% in pharmaceutical products.
Refined petroleum and chemical products remained the biggest proportion of exports to the continent, with the EU buying £3.2 billion from the sector – but the figure dropped by £200 million based on the previous year.
Export increases outwith the EU were led by a 10.5% (£780 million) jump in services exports, while manufacturing sales dropped by 1.3% (£115 million).
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “These statistics for 2019 show a strong underpinning performance in Scotland’s exports before the twin economic shocks caused by the global pandemic and EU exit.
“International exports increased by 3.4% to £35.1 billion, with exports to EU countries rising 2.6% to £16.4 billion. The main driver for a growth in exports to the rest of the UK was an increase in electricity exports, helping to keep the lights on in England and Wales.
“The figures provide further evidence of the importance of the EU to Scotland’s trade. The detrimental impact of the UK Government’s approach to our exit from the EU is evident in more recent HMRC trade statistics which showed that in the year to June 2021, Scotland’s goods exports to the EU were 25% down on the equivalent period in 2019.
“Through our Export Growth Plan, we remain focused on increasing Scotland’s international exports to 25% of GDP by 2029.
“For the year to June 2021, Scotland’s trade in goods increased by 3% compared with the previous year if oil and gas are excluded. This compares with a 2% decrease for the UK as a whole and suggests our export strategy is succeeding, despite the impact of Brexit.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The Scottish Government’s export figures show again that the rest of the UK remains by far Scotland’s most important market, with exports to England, Wales and Northern Ireland worth three times more than all EU countries combined.
“Scottish international exports to non-EU countries are also up more than 4% since 2018, showing the enormous potential for Scottish businesses outside of the EU.
“As we continue to strike progressive new trade deals around the globe, we are unlocking export opportunities which will benefit Scotland and the whole UK.”
Scottish Conservative economy spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “These figures are further proof of the enormous benefit Scotland derives from being part of the UK.
“Hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs are reliant on us being part of the Union, given that trade with the rest of the UK rose by £2.5 billion on the previous year, to £52 billion, and accounts for 60% of our total exports.
“It goes without saying that Scotland separating from its most important trading bloc would wreak huge economic damage – and yet that’s exactly the nightmare scenario the SNP, with their independence obsession, are hell-bent on creating.”