Scotland remains open for business despite Brexit uncertainty, Trade Minister Ivan McKee has said ahead of a European trade visit.
The MSP will head to Hamburg this week for a series of meetings on further boosting Scotland’s trade with Europe.
He will give a speech on Scotland’s future trade relations with Europe to business and industry figures at an event co-hosted with the Hamburg branch of British Chambers of Commerce.
Ahead of the visit, he stressed the importance of the European Union to Scottish trade saying: “Scotland remains open for business, despite uncertainty over Brexit.
“The EU remains the largest single market for Scotland’s international exports, with exports worth £12.7 billion in 2016, supporting directly or indirectly hundreds of thousands of jobs across Scotland.
“Last year, nearly 6,800 companies operating in Scotland exported goods to the EU and over 10,000 companies were reliant on imports from the EU.
“All will be potentially impacted by a decision to leave the single market and customs union through higher costs, a loss of competitiveness or production delays.
“These impacts will in turn feed through to suppliers, jobs and the wider Scottish economy.”
He added: “Additionally, in 2015, Scotland exported around £3.6 billion to countries with which the EU has a free trade agreement – around 13% of Scotland’s international exports.
“Food and drink exports, including premium iconic Scottish produce like whisky, beef, langoustines and salmon, are as a whole approximately four times more important to the Scottish economy than they are for the UK as a whole.
“Despite previously promising frictionless trade, the UK Government’s draft deal would mean barriers to exports and the loss of the EU’s trade agreements which is not acceptable.”
He reiterated the Scottish Government’s position that its priority is to remain in the EU and of backing a second referendum, short of which the “least damaging option” is remaining a permanent members of the European single market and customs union.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We have achieved a deal with the EU that delivers on the referendum and means we will be able to strike free trade deals around the world.”
“Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than £45 billion, almost four times that of its trade with the whole of the EU.
“As we prepare to leave the EU it is essential we protect the vital UK internal market and we have been clear that the whole of the UK will be leaving the single market and the customs union.”