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Scottish Exports Statistics - SESCG 3/2/2004

DescriptionPaper SESCG 3/2/2004 on Scottish Exports Statistics
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateFebruary 03, 2005



This paper provides an update on progress with the 2003 Global Connections Survey, and outlines some issues relating to the estimation of exports from survey data. It also outlines some issues relating to the presentation of the Index of Manufactured exports. SESCG are asked to consider the highlighted points for discussion.

Update on Global Connections Survey 2003

Survey forms were sent to 10,000 companies sampled from the IDBR in June 2004. After two chase-ups the response rate in terms of number of companies is around 33% (including nil returns). The sample covers 3% of companies on the IDBR, and accounts for 32% of turnover. When information on large companies from the ONS Monthly Production Index is used to supplement this, 45% of Scottish IDBR turnover is covered. However no information on destination of exports is available from this source. Data are also being supplemented with further information gathered by Scottish Enterprise, for sectors where large companies are under-represented.

Work is ongoing to analyse the data from the 2003 survey, with a view to publication in December 2004.


The grossing methodology is the same as used last year, with the exception that values of goods and services are being estimated separately. This approach appears to make a slight difference to the results, which is more marked in certain parts of the service sector.

Early results

Initial estimates of exports by industry in 2003 will be circulated during the meeting. Feedback on these based on your knowledge of the various sectors would be very welcome. ( Please note that these preliminary results are strictly personal and confidential.)


There are several issues that affect the quality of exports estimates for Scotland. These relate both to the availability of information and to conceptual difficulties in defining Scottish exports.

· Many large companies that operate throughout the UK are unable to separate their Scottish activity from the UK total. This means that they are less likely to provide information. ONS MPI data are used to augment the sample for large production companies that do not respond. There are two main problems with this: the MPI allocates a Scottish share of UK exports pro rata by employment rather than providing specific Scottish information; and the MPI contains no information on destinations of exports.

· While the response rate is reasonable for this type of voluntary survey, the particular responding companies can have a significant effect on the results - particularly for estimates of exports to specific destinations. There are also respondents who are unable to supply the necessary information.

· The estimates are grossed up based on the IDBR, so rely on the turnover and employment data being reliable and up to date. In cases where we consider that this is not the case, we adjust the IDBR information ourselves based on other sources for weighting/grossing purposes.

· Many international companies no longer function on a geographical basis and the trend is towards multinational teams working on projects. This is particularly problematic in the finance and business services sectors where companies are less able now than they would have been, even a few years ago, to disaggregate their activity geographically - either where it takes place or where the customers are based. Export figures are estimated for the firms that are unable to provide this information using data, where possible, from other sources.

SESCG are invited to consider whether estimation of exports for all economic sectors in Scotland continues to be an appropriate and worthwhile exercise, and if so, to advise on the presentation of these results.

Particular sectors of interest


Last year, estimates for the spirits industry were taken from Customs & Excise data, as there were doubts about the quality of the information from the IDBR. However, the 2003 HMCE spirits exports figure for Scotland is too low as they have been unable to regionalise a large part of their UK total. We intend this year to include the industry in the grossing as with all other industries, as we believe that the issues with the IDBR have been resolved.


This year the information on the sea fish sector will come from SEERAD and not from the survey.

Office machinery

The response rate from this sector was low, and the data are being supplemented as far as possible by contacts in Scottish Enterprise.


Data from the CSCB are used to estimate exports from the banking sector and to constrain IDBR turnover. It is not possible to obtain a destination breakdown from this.


The wholesale sector is a fairly large exporter, and some companies are classified as wholesale when they are also producing products. In the case of the whisky industry, the analysis will move these into the whisky sector. However, for other sectors the companies are currently left within wholesale.

Hotels & restaurants / retail

Adjustments are made to these sectors based on information from the International Passenger Survey to account for the fact that many of these businesses will not identify sales to tourists as exports.

SESCG members are invited to comment on the approach taken to estimating exports from these particular sectors. In particular, discussion of how progress can be made in the financial sector would be welcomed.Comparisons over time

There are concerns about the validity of comparisons with 2002 results for some sectors where extra information has become available or where small methodological changes are making a difference. For this reason we intend to revise the 2002 figures to publish alongside 2003. Members are asked to approve the principle of producing revised 2002 exports estimates. The revised 2002 figures are not yet available, but if members who are interested in quality assuring the revisions could contact, they will be sent to you for consideration.

Scottish Index of Manufactured Exports

The Index of Manufactured Exports was published in July 2004 following a six month suspension of the series for redevelopment. On the re-launch of the series detailed information on the new approach to methodology was made available on the Scottish Executive website

The index has now been published in its new form for two quarters and we are keen to receive feedback on the new approach. One particular issue for consideration is the level of detail at which the series is published. The results for a number of the smaller industries, e.g. food & tobacco and transport equipment can be volatile on a quarterly basis, and we are seeking views on the usefulness of publishing at this level.

Members are invited to comment on the new approach.


19 November 2004