In this era of uncertainty with the Covid-19 crisis and impending Brexit it’s more important than ever that we help Scottish businesses to trade through these challenges and sell our products, brands and services overseas.

In a recent Glasgow Chamber of Commerce member survey, 37 per cent responded that they had been trading internationally before the pandemic struck but only 26% were still currently selling overseas.

However, 31% said they would consider trading abroad in the future and the good news is that with widespread use by just about everyone of platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Webex the start of the process towards being an exporter can continue again now – despite the limits still in existence for most overseas travel.

In these precarious times businesses can embrace video technology and, while such contact with potential overseas customers is obviously not the same as real meetings, and certainly in my view won’t replace them, they can be used as preparatory sessions for developing future trade partnerships and encouraging joint ventures designed to win contracts and find new routes to market.

As an example, Glasgow Chamber last week ran a five-day outward virtual trade mission to the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou. Ten Scottish e-commerce and life science businesses took part in nine group webinar sessions, and there were 20 business-to-business meetings with Chinese-based counterparts.

The culmination was the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with three key organisations – Zhejiang Science and Technology Exchange and Talent Service Centre, Yangtze Delta River Creative Economy of Cooperation Committee and the British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai.

We heard a great example of an innovative Scottish design and manufacturing business Peak Scientific, headquartered in the Greater Glasgow area with all its manufacturing in Scotland spread over three operations in the city region, but with a significant sales, marketing, distribution and maintenance operation in Shanghai.

Peak has shown strong leadership and chosen a prudent growth strategy and now employs 500 people, of whom 80 are based in China, and it has been able to trade its way through the Covid crisis partly because of the business it does in the Chinese and other overseas markets.

This was a trade mission in cyberspace, but relationships have now undoubtedly been made that will be followed up in many cases in face-to-face meetings – and we have such a trip pencilled in for late this year if circumstances allow.

Whether trade missions are real or virtual, the strength and contacts of the support organisations we have here at home and overseas such as the Chamber of Commerce network and Scottish Development International provides necessary reassurance and confidence for SMEs as they navigate their way through the sometimes complex challenges of doing business in a new overseas market.

This includes insight, market intelligence and contacts both ex-pat and local who are prepared to open doors and provide help to make the venture successful.

Even in these tough times it’s possible to create valuable new opportunities for our businesses if they are prepared to invest time in their approach and involvement in trade missions, both virtual and real, to pick a path to growth and success.

So, as planes start to return to our skies and cargo holds fill with Scottish produce of manufactured goods, engineering machinery and seafood and spirits there is a clear positive sign that confidence is returning.

We must pull out all the stops to help those companies who look to export as a way to grow business, in the process employing more people with valuable well-paid jobs producing even more Scottish goods for even more exporting relationships.

Richard Muir is deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce