1. Executive Summary

1. Executive Summary

Modern societies and economies are characterised by high levels of mobility, with businesses increasingly trading and competing on a global scale. Scotland is no exception. Its international presence is only possible through connections which Scotland’s transport infrastructure provides; connections which underpin and determine the capacity of any region to build economic prosperity and social cohesion. 

The transport network in Scotland consists primarily of four modes; road, rail, air and sea. Scotland has a trade surplus in goods and has done for the past six years. This further emphasises the importance of maintaining a resilient transport network that will continue to support Scottish trade long into the future.

Under Scotland's Economic Strategy, the Scottish Government's overall purpose is to increase sustainable economic growth. A safe, efficient, effective and sustainable transport system, for both passengers and freight, remains one of the key enablers of such sustainable economic growth. It supports businesses in achieving their local, national and international objectives and improves the lives of individuals and communities, by connecting them with their economic future.

This report provides a summary of Scotland’s key exports and imports, and how they are transported from, into and within Scotland. An overview of some of Scotland’s key transport hubs is provided along with further details of some of its key trading partners. Key highlights are:

Scotland’s Trade

  • Scotland has strong trade links with 105 countries across nearly 100 different industries and sectors.
  • Scotland traded nearly £53 billion worth of goods in 2017, with more than half (54%) being exports. Of the £28.7 billion worth of exports destined for international markets, nearly half (49%) went to the EU.
  • The top 5 destinations for Scottish exports in 2017 were the Netherlands (£4.3 billion), the United States (£3.4 billion), Germany (£2.8 billion), China (£2.2 billion), and France (£1.7 billion)
  • Scotland’s key exports markets include Petroleum, petroleum products & related materials, Food & Drink and Power Generating machinery and equipment – with 38% of all exports in these goods, being sent to EU markets.

Transporting Scotland’s Freight

  • In 2016, total freight (excluding pipeline and rail) lifted in Scotland was over 271 million tonnes. Road freight made up the largest proportion (204 million tonnes) followed by sea (67 million tonnes) and then air (55,000 tonnes). 
  • The vast majority of freight lifted in Scotland was carried by road and remained within Scotland.
  • Although the amount of freight carried by road to mainland Europe is small, the road network is an essential way to transport Scotland’s perishable goods to such markets in Europe.

Scotland’s Key Transport Hubs

  • Forth Ports is Scotland’s largest port with 27.5 million tonnes being handled by the port in 2017.
  • Edinburgh Airport handles the most air freight in Scotland, and is also the country’s busiest passenger airport and the sixth busiest in the UK.
  • As well as being Scotland’s largest commercial site, Eurocentral located next to the M8 and the rail network is one of Scotland’s key transport logistic facilities.
  • Cairnryan/Loch Ryan is Scotland’s main port for carrying goods and passengers to Northern Ireland. Trunk road links to the port (A77 and A75) carry an estimated £67 million worth of goods per day. 

Transport Links to Key Trade Destinations

  • Scotland’s number one international export destination is the Netherlands this is a result of the Dutch port of Rotterdam being an international shipping hub with goods exported to other global destinations from there.
  • In 2017, the USA was Scotland’s main non-EU export destination with whisky being a key export commodity. Although most high density freight to the USA is carried by ship, some direct flights which operate from some of Scotland’s key airport also carry low volume freight.
  • Both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remain core trading partners with Scotland. In 2017 nearly £1.3 billion of exports went to the Republic alone accounting for 4.5% of Scotland’s total exports. A proportion of these goods would have been transported via the 13 daily sailings from Cairnryan / Loch Ryan.
  • Since 2013, Scotland has imported more goods from Norway than any other nation. Over that time, imports from Norway have totalled more than £19.4 billion. As a result of both countries involvement in the North Sea oil and gas fields, the top commodities are related to petroleum and gas. These are typically transported by either boat or pipeline.