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Most sectors are enjoying economic recovery, says Swinney

The recovery in Scotland's economy is being felt across most industries, the Finance Secretary has said.

John Swinney was speaking as new figures showed international manufacturing exports grew by 3% in the first three months of the year.

More Scottish-based companies than ever before are being supported to expand internationally, he said.

The export rise includes a 12.5% boost in the volume of exports of refined petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical products compared with the previous quarter.

The increase was attributed to the resumption of production at the Grangemouth oil refinery following its temporary closure at the end of 2013.

The food and drink sector also recorded a 1.6% increase for the period January to March, according to the latest Index of Manufactured Exports (IME) for Scotland.

Over the past year the volume of manufactured exports to overseas markets rose 2.4%.

Mr Swinney said: "These figures reinforce the belief that recovery is being felt across most industries, and follows on from recent GDP figures which show that the Scottish economy is now past its pre-recession peak with GDP growing by one per cent in the first quarter of 2014, faster than the UK as a whole.

"Labour market statistics published this month also show that employment in Scotland is at a record high.

"However, we are aware that times remain challenging for many industries, which reflects the ongoing economic uncertainty in the eurozone.

"Through our enterprise agencies, the Scottish Government is strengthening Scotland's economic links in overseas markets.

"We are encouraging more growth companies to become active exporters and we are widening our support to help them do so. This includes a package of business rates reliefs worth more than £590 million in 2014-15."

Addressing the Commonwealth Games Business Conference in Glasgow, Mr Swinney said Scottish Development International (SDI) had supported 2,708 companies in the past year, up by almost 30%.

Mr Swinney said: "These figures underline the significant international success that businesses across Scotland are experiencing - with companies supported by SDI projecting a record high of £1.2 billion in international sales.

"There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Games has brought huge international focus on Glasgow and Scotland.

"The Games are already delivering a significant economic legacy that will benefit Scottish businesses and communities for years to come and we are committed to working with Commonwealth countries to extend that ambitious economic legacy."

Anne MacColl, chief executive of Scottish Development International, said: "These results highlight that Scottish companies have reached a real turning point where international exporting has become an integral part of growing their companies.

"This record level of demand for our support demonstrates that Scottish businesses are becoming more confident, developing a more international mindset and crucially embracing markets worldwide. We have a real opportunity to use this as a springboard to radically transform Scotland's economy."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "On the back of record employment and seven consecutive quarters of Scottish economic growth, it is encouraging to see Scotland's international export sales have increased during the first quarter of 2014.

"This week has seen the UK solidify its place as the number one destination in Europe for foreign direct investment projects and we are determined to help our businesses grow, export and ultimately create more jobs."

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