Brexit aside, Fife businesses should be amping up exports

Fife businesses should, and could, be exporting more, says Cllr Laird
Fife businesses should, and could, be exporting more, says Cllr Laird

Fife businesses should - and could - be exporting more regardless of whether the United Kingdom votes to stay or leave the European Union.

That’s the view of Councillor Lesley Laird, depute leader and executive spokesman economy and planning, responding to a report which suggested Fife was better off in the EU.

“The question on EU membership is a live debate and this area will no doubt be more broadly explored and debated in the coming weeks, “ said Cllr Laird.

“What I can say is that Fife recognises the need to encourage more businesses to export and it is important that the data is not skewed by a small number of large companies – what would suggest a stronger healthier economic base is if more of our SMEs were active exporters.”

Her comments come after the publication of ‘Measuring Fife’s Economy’ by 4-consulting in Kirkcaldy.

The report, researched by Thomas Kane using figures stretching back to 2009, suggests a vote to leave the European Union on June 23 could impact more heavily on Fife than other regions in Scotland.

While international exports account for 18 per cent of Scottish GDP, Fife’s figure stands closer to 24 per cent.

Latest data also revealed that Fife businesses, which include major firms such as Diageo and Quaker Oats, exported £1.7 billion outside the UK in 2014 and 58 per cent of all goods were destined for the EU.

Describing Fife as an “exporting heavyweight “ Mr Kane said most companies relied on trade deals brokered through Europe.

“There’s costs and benefits to EU membership, but for Fife the balance of economic benefits is tilted towards remaining in the EU,” he commented.

Cllr Laird revealed a partnership led by Fife Council began a new ‘one-stop-shop’ service to support businesses in Fife to trade internationally in 2015.

“Feedback from Fife businesses is that many of them don’t export and the purpose of this initiative is to make it easier to do so,” she commented.

“Diversifying products and customer base in today’s global economy is becoming more fundamental no matter where you are located if you are aiming for long term sustainability and we want to encourage and support more businesses in Fife to be able to do so.”

The service helps businesses to go global by providing the knowledge and capabilities of Fife Council Economic Development Team, Business Gateway Fife, Scottish Development International (SDI) and Fife Chamber of Commerce.

The report reveals Fife’e economic future is increasingly becoming tied to Edinburgh.

Commuters, working mainly in the capital, bring in £1.4 billion annually to the Kingdom - nearly a fifth of Fife’s total economy.

The report also reveals that while Fife companies’ profits have grown by almost 25 per cent since the recession in 2009, wages have grown a mere 9.1 per cent