SCOTTISH manufactured exports tumbled by 1.4% between the third and fourth quarters of last year, as overseas sales by electronics and mechanical engineering companies dropped, official figures have revealed.

And, over 2012 as a whole, Scottish-manufactured exports were down 2.9% on 2011.

The figures, published yesterday, highlight the challenges facing the economy, as the UK Government continues with its fiscal austerity programme.

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The Scottish Government export statistics are the latest of a raft of economic releases to underline the extent to which Chancellor George Osborne's vision of a "Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers", outlined in his March 2011 Budget, has failed to materialise.

And the grim UK economic backdrop was highlighted on Tuesday, when the Confederation of British Industry's latest industrial trends survey showed Scottish manufacturers suffered an accelerating decline in domestic orders and output volumes in the latest three months, amid plunging optimism.

The Scottish Government export figures showed the drinks industry enjoyed a 1.7% quarter-on-quarter jump in overseas sales in the final three months of 2012. The Scotch whisky industry turned in a solid export performance in the second half of 2012, recent industry figures showed.

The rise in drinks exports in the final quarter of 2012, was not, however, enough to offset sharp falls in overseas sales by other Scottish manufacturing sub-sectors recorded in the latest Scottish Government figures.

The electrical and instrument engineering category, which includes the key electronics industry, suffered a 6.6% quarter-on-quarter fall in exports in the final three months of last year.

And, over 2012 as a whole, electrical and instrument engineering exports were 9.2% lower than in 2011.

Mechanical engineering recorded a 2.7% quarter-on-quarter fall in exports in the final three months of 2012. However, over 2012 as a whole, mechanical engineering exports were up 5.5% on 2011.

Exports by the chemicals, coke, refined petroleum products and nuclear fuel sub-sector fell 3.6% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year.

CBI Scotland assistant director David Lonsdale said: "The dip in the fortunes of our exporters during the final quarter of 2012 and indeed over last year as a whole is disappointing."

However, he cited a return to modest growth in Scottish manufacturers' export orders in the latest three months, signalled by CBI Scotland's industrial trends survey on Tuesday. This modest growth contrasted with the weakness of Scottish manufacturers' orders from within the UK.

The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO) published separate export figures yesterday, which it said showed farmed salmon remained "one of Scotland's greatest economic success stories".

While noting that UK exports of fresh salmon fell 4% to 78,086 tonnes last year, the SSPO emphasised this was the second-highest annual figure on record and 16% ahead of the 67,117 tonnes of overseas sales recorded in 2010.

It said fresh salmon exports to the world's fast-expanding economies had risen year-on-year. The SSPO said that because of a "strategic focus" by the industry, exports to the Far East had risen about 64% to 9799 tonnes in 2012.