THE largest study of the Scottish business diaspora has found the country needs to be less inward-looking, strengthen its global ambition and export more.

Less than a third - 29 per cent - described the nation as outward-looking, a study undertaken by Momentous Change on behalf of the Scottish Business Network, which surveyed more than 1,000 respondents in 74 countries, found.

The survey sought to broach topics including how the Scottish diaspora views Scotland and Scottish business people, what businesses that already export have learned from their experience, and what cultural issues need to be addressed.

It also moved to identify the perceived barriers to trade what those businesses seeking to export require in terms of information, and what initiatives can be taken to encourage more exporting.

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When asked about positive descriptors in relation to how Scotland is perceived, 72% of respondents described Scotland as friendly, 45% said that the nation was resilient, 44% classified Scotland as entrepreneurial, and 35% said it was progressive.

The study also asked how Scotland could improve its international standing alongside other trading nations, find agreement around the need to build stronger networks and extend the supply of information flowing between the Scottish Government, its enterprise agencies, trade-related bodies like SBN and those Scottish companies who have the ambition to step up their export activities and achieve internationalisation.

Russell Dalgleish, chair of the SBN, said: “The findings of this research have already influenced our strategy to support the development of SBN Chapters in major cities across the globe with New York launching at the beginning of April.”

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Ivan McKee, Scottish Government minister for trade, investment and innovation, said the report “shows a significant number of people globally continue to view Scotland’s brand as friendly, trustworthy and ethical”.

Kingsley Aikins, founder and chief executive of Diaspora Matters and an expert in the field, said the diaspora can play an important role in nation branding for Scotland, adding: “In a world where major powers are looking inwards small countries like Scotland and Ireland need to do the opposite and build global networks of affluence and influence.

“Key now is to build on this encouraging report and put policies, programmes and projects in place to build on the potential.”

The study noted that there could be a case for also taking a more regional approach with international groupings of countries such as the European Union and Southern African Development Community.

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Michelle Thomson, co-author of the report alongside Professor Roger Mullin from Momentous Change, a consultancy the two former SNP MPs set up to help organisations manage change, said: “As described by one of our respondents, a £100,000 contract with a non-priority target country like New Zealand is just as valuable as a designated priority country like China.”

Sandy Donaldson, SBN ambassador, Atlanta, said: “We have a vast group of Scots abroad with a wealth of experience who are ready to support Scottish success abroad.”

The Scottish business diaspora was defined as those who are born Scottish or have worked, studied or have family connections with Scotland and the research study sample included business owners, founders, directors or senior executives from SMEs to large corporates.