This was a key message from an online discussion of Franco-Scottish economic relations post-Brexit: Parisians and other French folk were deprived of their traditional repast on Burns Night (la panse de brebis farcie) thanks to the partial chaos that has followed the UK’s departure from the EU single market and customs union.
But the webinar, organised by Scottish Enterprise and sponsored by the Scottish Development International Paris office, heard that trade between two countries enjoying the oldest alliance in the world (h/t Ch de Gaulle) is still growing immensely and could continue to do so despite the new barriers erected against the express wish of Scots.
France is the biggest EU investor in Scotland and the No 1 market in the EU for Scottish exports, (worth £3bn in 2018). While, according to Ivan McKee, Scottish trade minister, Brexit might knock 6% of Scotland’s GDP growth this year, our trade with France has been growing at around the same annual rate.
McKee told the webinar he saw three key sectors for future growth in trade: low-carbon energy/manufacturing, including offshore wind, digital technology and life sciences, with the latter employing 40,000 in around 800 businesses.
It turns out that there are several very good reasons for investing in Scotland, according to Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chairman/CEO of Chivas Brothers Ltd., one of some 12,500 French people living and working here. His company is part of the Pernod Ricard empire and makes inter alia Glenlivet – and has 13 distilleries making malt whisky and one doing grain.
He said key reasons for investing in Scotland are the quality (and stability) of the workforce, available space for expansion (he opens a new warehouse each year to house 6.5m barrels and rising), an eco-system of start-ups, access to supplies of key materials such as barley and glass plus, critically, a very business-friendly government – with few bureaucratic hurdles and a commitment to/delivery on carbon neutrality.