BUSINESS and government must take bolder steps to boost international trade if there is to be an export-led economic recovery.

And company owners should get closer to the education system to raise the status of careers in enterprise to school leavers and graduates.

Nora Senior, chair of Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), made the calls in remarks issued ahead of her speech to the organisation's annual dinner in Glasgow last night.

Ms Senior, chair of UK and regions at public relations firm Weber Shandwick, warned "the figures don't stack up" on talk of an export-led recovery - in spite of the "huge number of markets out there where both the Scotland and Chambers of Commerce brands are by-words for quality and where our reputation for doing business is strong".

While noting an SCC survey earlier this year has shown an increase in the number of Chambers businesses exporting rose to 39% this year from 32% in 2012, she highlighted that only 77,000 firms are "export active" from a total of 4.5 million in the UK.

Separate research among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by Finance Monitor found 20% had sought international clients, with 60% stating they did not sell overseas and had no immediate plans to.

Ms Senior said: "Government has been bold in its clarion call to increase exports particularly amongst SMEs.

"In reality, progress in enabling our would-be exporters to trade the world has been far too slow. Collectively we must do far more to encourage, nurture and promote those who want to think globally.

"And while government must do more to refocus resources on promoting export trade, businesses too must be bolder. Where is the ambition and leadership that established Scotland as a great trading nation?

"Yes, government must enhance its focus on assisting businesses to export but business owners have to step up to the plate to be brave enough to plan to explore new markets."

On the skills agenda, Ms Senior challenged businesses to get involved in the education system to help find talent it needs, saying it must not be left only to teachers to "inspire and instil enterprise in pupils".

Highlighting the possibility of providing teachers with first hand experience of business as part of their continuous professional development, Ms Senior said: "There needs to be a greater unity between business and schools - business must be engaged at an earlier stage, have greater input into course development and careers advice so that young people know what opportunities are available to them in the private sector when they leave school, college or university."

Ms Senior noted that SCC campaigning had helped secure a consultation on how Scotland can benefit from HS2, the extension of the High Speed Rail network to the north of England, and how it might be connected to Scotland. And she highlighted Chambers' continuing fight to reduce Air Passenger Duty and the "disproportionate effect" it is having on the country.