By Andy Sambidge
Gov't investment agency says exports surpass $1.5bn, up 28%; UAE is biggest market
Scottish Development International, the Scottish Government's investment and business development agency, said on Tuesday that exports to the Middle East have surpassed $1.5bn.
The agency said that despite the financial crisis impacting the eurozone and the Arab Spring, the region continues to be a major market for Scottish goods.
Driven primarily by the food and drink, energy, business and financial services and the metals, metal goods and mechanical engineering sectors, Scottish exports to the Middle East currently stand at $1.586bn, it said in a statement.
Exports of Scottish food and drink produce to the region grew by 28 percent last year, up to $367m in 2011.
Figures for the first half of 2012 indicate that these latest export levels are being "maintained and sustained" despite the challenging global economic climate.
It added that the UAE - with total sales of $143m in 2011 - was the most important market for Scottish products in the region and one of the fastest-growing markets globally.
Scotland's significant oil and gas reserves ensure that its traditional relationship with the Middle East, particularly the countries of the GCC, continues to mature and consolidate.
Scotland remains Europe's second-largest producer of offshore natural gas.
In late 2011, Abu Dhabi's TAQA announced a $1bn investment into its Scottish energy interests and in May the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company announced its $500m purchase of 35 percent of EnQuest's interest in its UK Alma and Galia oil field developments in the North Sea.
Anne MacColl, the chief executive of Scottish Development International, said: "These figures demonstrate that Scotland's relationship with the Middle East continues to flourish, despite a backdrop of continuing global financial uncertainty.
"Trade figures clearly show that the Middle East has become a key market for Scottish companies, with food and drink being a particular success story, as regional consumers buy into some of our best-loved Scottish brands."
She added: "Alongside this, we are continuing to facilitate investment opportunities into Scotland through an ongoing programme of meetings with companies, institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East.
"From tourism to food & drink, energy to education, Scotland has already found a very strong partner in the Middle East and we will continue to work closely with our contacts here in the region to strengthen this mutually rewarding relationship."
MacColl is set to visit the UAE and will be meeting with senior executives from companies in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seeking to develop and grow a number of established and emerging business relationships.
In January, Emirates announced it was introducing a second daily non-stop flight from Glasgow to Dubai, starting in June.
In June, Scottish fashion retailer, M&Co franchised its brand into the UAE and wider GCC opening stores in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai.