Direct air link to China called for by Committee


Scotland should have a direct air link to China, according to a report published today by the European and External Relations Committee.

The Committee has drawn the conclusion following its inquiry into the Scottish Government’s Country Plan for China and International Framework.

European and External Relations Committee Convener, Christina McKelvie MSP said:

“During our inquiry, we heard that the Chinese market represents the same economic opportunities as America did 100 years ago and to neglect these would put Scotland at a serious disadvantage. We believe a direct air link between China and Scotland would be instrumental in increasing Scotland’s business trade, as well as helping develop our profile as a tourist destination. We urge the Scottish Government to persevere in its communications on this as a matter of priority.”

The Committee’s inquiry focussed on the economic aspects of the Scottish Government refreshed Country Plan for China. This aims to increase trade opportunities for Scottish business in China and encouraging more Chinese investment in Scottish industry and infrastructure. During the inquiry, the Committee undertook a range of visits to businesses across Scotland that are already working in China.

Christina McKelvie MSP continued:

“There is some great work going on by the Scottish Government and its agencies to ensure Scottish companies can be introduced to the Chinese market. This is supported by Ministerial visits, which play such an important role in developing the relationships and open doors for businesses.

“However, we are concerned that although the Plan states that its objectives are to be delivered through a combined effort by stakeholders and the Government, there seems to be a lack of engagement with some stakeholders and we have asked the Government to look at this as it is crucial to get it right.”

The report also recommends:

  • The Scottish Government should work with Scottish business networks to establish the best dates and events around which Ministerial visits can take place in order to maximise returns for the Scottish economy. (Para 36).
  • In line with the Committee’s separate inquiry into the teaching of languages in primary schools, the Committee would welcome a more widespread of teaching Mandarin or Cantonese at all stages of education. (Para 50).
  • SDI should place more emphasis on business incubation schemes and making these available to businesses looking to move into the Chinese market. The Committee further suggests that SDI investigate how to use its own network of offices in China to provide greater support to companies unable to support their own China office. (Para 84).


The Scottish Government has developed country plans, the strategies for engagement, for the following locations: Canada, China, Europe and the EU, India, Pakistan, South Asia, and the United States of America. The most recent update of the China Plan was published on 4 December 2012. It states its principal priority “of increasing trade opportunities for Scottish business in China and encouraging more Chinese investment in Scottish industry and infrastructure.”

  • In 2011 the estimated total value of international exports from Scotland in (with the exclusion of oil and gas) was £23.9bn, with £4.2bn of this attributed to the food and beverage sector.
  • In 2011 the main export destinations outside of the UK were to the USA, and Europe. However in in the same year, the Scottish Government signed an agreement with the Chinese Government, to allow Scotland to export salmon to China.
  • Data compiled from HMRC Regional Trade Statistics shows that since 2007 the overall annual value of Scottish exports to China has risen (despite a dip in 2010) whilst the percentage of exports to China as a percentage of overall international exports has remained fairly steady indicating that the rise in exports to China has been broadly consistent with the rise in Scotland’s total international exports. 
  • HMRC Regional Trade Statistics for 2012 show that Scotland’s biggest exported product sector to China is machinery and transport equipment, which make up almost 50% of all exported products.  Beverages and tobacco (including whisky exports) make up 14.6%.

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