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Facts on Trade and Development

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The Jimmy Reid Foundation today publishes a major new critique of government handling of the Scottish economy in terms of the critical component of trade and development.

Written by renown independent economist/statistician, Margaret Cuthbert and entitled Growing the Scottish Economy: is Scotland well served on international trade and development?’, the paper casts grave doubt upon the Scottish Government’s ability to increase competitiveness and tackle inequality when the data needed to assess how well the Scottish economy is performing in trade and development is so woefully incomplete and inaccurate.

The findings of this paper are:

  • There has been a fundamental failure of the UK and Scottish governments in the collection, collation, and analysis of trade statistics for Scotland.
  • Existing data on trade and development is unjustifiably time-lagged, does not cover all sectors, is sketchy on sectors that are covered, and is based upon low return rates from respondents.
  • It is difficult to have much confidence in the data. Yet the agencies like Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International present themselves as providing excellent value for money in gather this poor quality data.
  • Without a timely good quality data on how well Scotland is performing on trade; without an analysis of trends; and without connections being made between trade patterns and trends in the economy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how any government can devise, monitor, and evaluate the trade part of an economic strategy.
  • With further devolution under the Smith Commission, these matters will only become more pressing as the Scottish Government becomes more responsible for managing Scotland’s economy.
  • Recommendations for change are made including the way data is gathered and when.

.Margaret Cuthbert commented: ‘Without good data, economic strategies can end up as ‘wish lists’ and can actually harm the economy. The effect of past strategies in Scotland cannot be adequately scrutinised to determine whether or why they were successful and cost efficient, or why they failed. We fool ourselves about our economic strategy without knowledge based upon analysis of the facts’.

She continued, saying ‘My conclusion is that unless there is a radical change in attitude, in systems, and in working methods by government and government agencies, Scotland will be seriously hampered in improving trade performance, and in particular, in trade helping to make substantive inroads into austerity and into improving economic growth’.

A copy of the Paper is attached. Trade and development