This section contains brief details and links to further information on manufacturing industry in Scotland.

Sectors of manufacturing industry

  1. Chemicals, pharmaceuticals and plastics.
  2. Building products, paint, ink, coatings, glass and print.
  3. Fashion and textiles.
  4. Food and drink.
  5. Science and engineering - including aerospace, cars, bioscience, electrical, electronics, marine, mechanical, metals and engineered metal products.


Working in manufacturing

  • Most jobs are full time.
  • More men than women work in these industries.
  • The average age of a worker is 40, the same as the average for Scotland as a whole.
  • Some sectors, including food and drink and textiles, have ageing workforces.
  • Job prospects for school leavers are best in the engineering and food and drink sectors. Nearly a third of engineering employers in Scotland have recruited a school leaver in the last 2-3 years.
  • Best prospects for university graduates are in the chemicals, nuclear, and oil and gas sectors.


More information at Careers Scotland.


The Scottish Government’s summary of statistics trends for the labour market includes a table of average earnings for different occupations. For example Managers and senior officials: £33,000. Skilled trades occupations: £21,500. Process, plant and machine operatives: £20,000.


“In 2006 the median gross annual full time income in Scotland was £22,603, up from £21,312 in 2005. However earnings differ considerably by type of occupation...”


Manufacturing and the economy

Employment growth will continue to be strongest in jobs that need higher levels of skills and qualifications.


Managerial, professional and technical occupations accounted for 620,000 jobs in 1981, or 27% of the total. In 2004, these occupations accounted for 985,000 jobs, which was 39% of the total.


Despite a projected decline in employment in some industries, there will be job opportunities to 2009 across all industrial sectors. This occurs as employers seek to replace workers who leave the labour market.


There will continue to be an increased demand for workers with higher-level qualifications, particularly at SVQ Level 3 and above. There will be a decreasing demand for workers with qualifications at SVQ Level 2 or below. The number of working age people with SVQ

Level 4 and above qualifications is projected to increase.


From The Scottish Labour Market 2006.


More information and data from Futureskills Scotland.


Manufactured exports

  • Scottish manufactured export sales decreased by 5.1 % in real terms in the third quarter of 2007  (seasonally adjusted) and grew by 4.3 % over the year to 2007 Q3.
  • Over the quarter, the main industry contributing to the decrease in manufactured export sales was engineering which fell by 15.7 % over the latest quarter following particularly high growth in the previous quarter.
  • Industries also experiencing decline over the latest quarter were: chemicals & refined petroleum (-8.9%); food & tobacco (-13.0%); and textiles, fur & leather (-1.2%).
  • Industries showing growth in real terms were: drinks (+20.9%); wood, paper, publishing & printing (+6.1%); other manufacturing (+2.6%); and metals & metal products (+1.4%).
  • Over the year, engineering and drink were the main industries contributing to the growth in manufactured export sales, with annual growths of 6.5 % and 9.6 % respectively.
  • Metals & metal products (+10.4%) and wood, paper, publishing & printing (+11.0%) also showed strong growth over the year.
  • The main industry showing a decline in manufactured export sales in real terms over the year was chemicals, with an annual decline of 7.5 %.
  • Food & tobacco (-17.1%), textiles, fur & leather (-5.3%), other manufacturing (-5.1%) and electrical & instrument engineering (-0.1%) also fell over the year.


Longer Term Trends


  • Over 1995 Q1 to 2000 Q4, the index of manufactured exports exhibited a period of strong growth (1.9% average quarterly growth).
  • This was followed by a sustained period of decline from 2000 Q4 (2.7% average quarterly decline 2000Q4-2004Q4).
  • Since the end of 2004, there has been evidence of growth in manufactured export sales.
  • The growth and decline in manufactured exports over the period 1995-2004 is largely explained by the electrical and instrument engineering sector. This grew by 95.7 % between 1995 and 2000 and fell by 66.2 % between 2000 Q4 and 2004 Q4.
  • At its peak in 2000, the electrical and instrument engineering sector accounted for 58 % of Scotland's manufactured exports.
  • This industry remains Scotland's largest exporting sector and accounted for 33.7 % of Scotland's total manufactured exports in 2006.


More information from the Index of Manufactured Exports 2007Q3 - web section.


Selected manufacturing sector data


The UK has the world's largest aerospace industry outside the USA.


With a turnover of more than £22 billion in 2005, it supports a highly skilled workforce of over 276,000. Aerospace is the second largest contributor to the UK economy after pharmaceuticals. The UK has around 13% of the world market.


With around 10% of the UK aerospace industry in Scotland, there are 150 companies in the civil aerospace and defence equipment industries. These employ over 30,000 people.


Aerospace accounts for 3-4% of manufacturing as a whole. There are three main parts of the industry in Scotland:


  • Maintenance, repair and overhaul. The fastest growing part of the industry in Scotland, with growth concentrated in the west of Scotland.
  • Manufacture and design. The most widely distributed part of the industry in Scotland
  • Avionics. The electronic equipment that goes on to aircraft and related products. This is the most technically advanced part of the industry.


More information from Scottish Enterprise.


Chemicals and pharmaceuticals

  • The Scottish chemicals manufacturing sector has an annual output in excess of £3.1 billion
  • Over 16,000 people are employed directly.
  • Over 60% of products manufactured in Scotland are exported.
  • World scale companies such as AstraZeneca, Akzo Nobel, Avecia, Innovene, Ciba, Exxon, GlaxoSmithKline, Rhodia and Syngenta have Scottish operations.
  • Chemical exports account for 12% of manufacturing exports in Scotland (£1.7b), second only to the electronics industry.
  • Grangemouth represents 33% of the Scottish chemicals industry in turnover terms.


More information from Scottish Enterprise.



  • More than 1000 companies that design, develop or supply electronic products or services are located in Scotland.
  • Over 45,000 people are employed directly and approximately 29,000 indirectly.
  • Electronics contributes 14% to Scotland’s GDP.
  • Scotland makes 28% of Europe’s PCs; more than 7% of the world’s PCs; and 29% of Europe’s notebooks.
  • Electronics accounts for 12% of Scotland’s total manufacturing employment and for more than half of Scottish exports.
  • The biggest export products are PCs and peripherals such as printers.


More information from Scottish Enterprise.


Food and drink

  • Today Scotland employs 122,000 people in the food and drink processing sector and its associated supply chain, which generates £7.57 billion in sales.
  • A further £2 billion comes from agriculture, aquaculture and fish catching.
  • Food and drink is the largest employer within Scottish manufacturing and accounts for more than a quarter of manufacturing exports.
  • Scottish farmers and fishermen provide more than one third of our raw materials and are major suppliers to the UK industry.
  • £3.65 billion worth of food and drink were exported in 2005.


More information from Scottish Enterprise and from the sector skills council Improve.


Life sciences

  • There are over 590 organisations in Scotland's life sciences community - employing over 29,500 people.
  • Scotland is home to 15% of the UK's life sciences companies.
  • Over 50 academic institutions and 80 companies are engaged in drug discovery.
  • There are more than 100 Scottish-based medical devices companies.
  • Scottish researchers work in many areas, from developing new therapies for cancer and heart disease, through to understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.


More information from Scottish Enterprise.


Paints, inks and other coatings

Note: the statistics in this section are for the UK as a whole rather than Scotland alone.


  • Some 450 companies employ around 20,000 people
  • Combined sales turnover is over £2.2 billion with exports of £400 millions.
  • Coatings are produced for a variety of uses, including the automotive sector, marine, wood finishing, DIY paints, packaging, coatings for plastics, and, in the case of printing inks, newspapers.
  • The industry is changing, with the introduction of modern manufacturing systems, and a strong emphasis on customer service.
  • Five of the largest manufacturers of coatings in Europe are based in Britain.
  • The coatings industry comprises a handful of large multinational companies and hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Formulations are increasingly sophisticated - protecting, beautifying, insulating, reflecting light etc.
  • 100 tonnes of ink is used each day for printing newspapers
  • A jumbo jet needs 2 tonnes of paint.


A new interactive website  based on a typical street scene helps young people learn about careers and products in the process and manufacturing sector. More information from the sector skills council Proskills.



Scotland’s textile sector is a highly technical industry in a competitive global market. The industry has an annual turnover of £1,084 million. In recent years the textile and clothing industry has seen continuous change. Expertise in design, production and innovation underpin recent success.


  • There are currently 450 textile companies in Scotland, directly employing over 17,000 people.  
  • After several decades of steady decline in employment numbers, this is now slowing.
  • Productivity has increased 12% in the last five years. It remains lower than other manufacturing industries, but the gap is narrowing.
  • A higher proportion of the workforce is now employed in highly skilled jobs, in areas such as design and product development.
  • 5.7% of Scottish manufacturing jobs are in the textiles sector.
  • In the last five years, the proportion of the workforce employed in non-manufacturing jobs has risen from 15% to 32 % - with managerial and professional occupations accounting for 13% of jobs.
  • Average wages in the textile sector remain below the Scottish average, but the gap has decreased significantly as low skill jobs move offshore.


More information from Scottish Enterprise.


Further information

National statistics

On the different sectors of manufacturing industry.


SEMTA  is the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies. It represents the following sectors aerospace, automotive, bioscience, electrical, electronics, maintenance, marine, mathematics, mechanical, metals and engineered metal products.


Cogent is the sector skills council for the chemicals and pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, nuclear, petroleum and polymer industries.


Proskills is the sector skills council for the building products, coatings, extractives, glass and print industries, which make up the process and manufacturing sector.


Skillfast-UK is the sector skills council for fashion and textiles.


Improve is the sector skills council for food and drink manufacturing and processing.






Scottish Manufacturing Industry