SCOTTISH manufactured exports rose by 0.8% in the three months to last September, after three consecutive quarters of decline, as the Scotch whisky sector turned in a strong performance.

This modest rebound in overseas sales, which followed a 4% tumble in the second quarter of last year, was revealed in figures published yesterday by the Scottish Government.

John Swinney, Scottish Finance Secretary, described the 0.8% rise in manufactured export volumes in the third quarter as "especially welcome after three quarters of decline".

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Scottish manufactured export volumes dropped by 0.9% in the first quarter of last year, and fell by 0.4% in the final three months of 2011.

Comparing the year to September 30, 2012, with the preceding 12 months, Scottish manufactured exports were down 0.8%.

This highlights the challenges faced by the Scottish economy as it attempts to rebalance towards greater external demand, at a time when the UK economy as a whole is struggling against the backdrop of the Coalition Government's continuing austerity programme.

Data published earlier this month by the Scottish Government showed gross domestic product north of the Border rose by 0.6% in the third quarter of last year. This rise trailed a 0.9% increase in GDP in the UK as a whole in the three months to September.

UK GDP fell by 0.3% in the fourth quarter of last year – leaving the economy on the brink of triple-dip recession. The UK would record its third recession since 2008 if GDP were to fall again in the current quarter.

Official fourth-quarter GDP figures for Scotland are due to be published in April.

Yesterday's Scottish Government data showed exports by the drinks sector north of the Border surged 9.2% quarter-on-quarter in the three months to September. This jump followed a 5.8% slide in the second quarter of last year.

Scottish food and tobacco exports, meanwhile, showed a 1.6% quarter-on-quarter jump in the three months to September. This also represented a rebound, after a 1.1% fall in the second quarter of last year.

However, the Scottish textiles, clothing and leather manufacturing sub-sector and the engineering and allied industries category showed respective 8.3% and 0.8% falls in exports during the third quarter. Within engineering and allied industries, electronics manufacturers did well in the third quarter in terms of overseas sales. Exports of the electrical and instrument engineering category, which includes electronics, rose 3.3%.

However, mechanical engineering and transport equipment manufacturers suffered respective 2.5% and 3.4% falls in exports in the third quarter.

Comparing the year to September 30 with the preceding 12 months, the performance of these engineering sub-categories looks different.

On this time frame, mechanical engineering and transport equipment exports show respective rises of 7% and 14.9%. However, electrical and instrument engineering exports are down 5.4% on this 12-month-on-12-month comparison.

Mr Swinney said: "The food and drink sector is performing extremely well and it is clear that many countries have developed a taste for Scottish goods. Our excellent natural larder guarantees some of the best produce in the world and this reputation for quality is paying dividends.

"By increasing exports we can help build sustainable economic growth for Scotland and the public sector is focused on working effectively with the business community to showcase the range of goods and services Scotland has to offer."