Scotland and the Netherlands: European partners
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over EU exit, the EU remains incredibly important to Scotland’s trading potential. And as our second largest export market, one country which is of particular significance is the Netherlands.
Scottish exports to the Netherlands were estimated to be worth £2.5 billion in 2017 – 7.6% of all international exports – and an increase of £360 million from 2016. While it’s important to note that these figures may be somewhat inflated due to the Netherlands acting as a logistics hub for Global Markets – commonly known as ‘the Rotterdam effect’ – the trading connection between our two countries is strong.
The largest export sector is Chemicals and Chemical Products, accounting for £840 million of all exports to the Netherlands in 2017. Other important exporting sectors are Energy Support and Engineering & Manufacturing, generating £410 million and £255 million respectively.
But even more can be done. The Netherlands has been recognised as a priority country in our new Export Growth Plan – ‘A Trading Nation’ – with a potential £2.1 billion of additional exports up for grabs in key sectors including machinery, financial services, IT and chemical science.
With this in mind, I travelled to the Netherlands this week to highlight Scotland’s commitment to continuing the development of our economic, political and cultural connections and to explain where our export plan fits in. Scotland is an outward-facing European nation with a strong relationship with the Netherlands and we want to maintain these existing ties, as well as reaffirm our good trading relationship, in the context of Brexit.
In addition to meeting a number of key businesses who are either already investing in Scotland or looking to do so, I also had the opportunity to visit the port of Rotterdam to see first-hand the impact Brexit could have on trade links, and I met with Peter Wilson, the UK Ambassador to the Netherlands. The visit also provided me an opportunity to talk directly to potential partners and key stakeholders in the Netherlands, to allow the Scottish Government and our agencies to gain a more detailed understanding of the Dutch market and to reinforce our position on Brexit.
Trade with the European Union is crucial to Scotland’s continued growth. The Scottish Government’s first priority is staying in the EU, in line with the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain, and we support another referendum on EU membership. Short of that, the least damaging option is to remain in the Customs Union and European Single Market of 500 million people – eight times larger than the UK market alone.