SCOTTISH manufactured export volumes rebounded by three per cent in the first quarter, boosted by the return to normality at the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical complex and by firm overseas demand for food and drink, official figures have revealed.

The data, published yesterday by the Scottish Government, also show solid quarter-on-quarter growth in exports by mechanical engineering companies and transport equipment manufacturers.

And, comparing the year to March with the preceding 12 months, the volume of Scottish manufactured exports was up 2.4 per cent.

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Scottish manufactured export volumes had tumbled by five per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, partly because of the temporary closure in October 2013 of the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical complex.

The latest figures show that refined petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical products exports jumped by 12.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the opening three months of this year. This followed a tumble of about 20 per cent in the final quarter of last year.

Drinks exports, in which the Scotch whisky industry plays a major role, rose by 1.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2014. Mechanical engineering export volumes were up 2.2 per cent in the first quarter. And exports of transport equipment were up 2.7 per cent, continuing a strong run in recent quarters.

However, exports by the electrical and instrument engineering sub-sector fell 1.5 per cent during the first quarter. And, comparing the year to March with the preceding 12 months, they were down 12.7 per cent.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "The news that Scotland's manufactured exports have returned to growth is to be welcomed and reflects the feedback we have been receiving from our members throughout the year so far.

"This is great news for Scotland's economy, particularly against a background where many of our international markets are still experiencing economic issues of their own."

Figures published last week by the Scottish Government showed gross domestic product north of the Border surged one per cent quarter-on-quarter in the opening three months of 2014. This meant GDP in the opening three months of this year was 0.4 per cent above its level in the second quarter of 2008, ahead of the recession.

A survey on Tuesday from the Confederation of British Industry signalled Scottish manufacturers' new export orders were flat in the latest three months.