NICOLA Sturgeon has announced plans to increase exports to the point where they account for one-quarter of Scotland’s GDP in 10 years.

The First Minister said the Trading Nation strategy to grow Scottish exports from 20% to 25% in the next decade would create 17,000 jobs.

She said the move would “make a big difference to jobs, public services and the overall quality of life”.

Launching the export plan at the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said: “The target we have adopted of exports accounting for 25% of our GDP in 10 years’ time is both important and also ambitious.

“Exports have hovered around the 20% mark for almost the entire 20 years of devolution so getting to 25% and staying there – or progressing further – would be a big change.

“It would also be a very beneficial change. It would add more than 2% to the size of our economy and create in the region of 17,000 jobs.

“As a result of that, it would increase annual tax take – the money we can invest in public services and infrastructure – by an estimated £500 million a year.”

Sturgeon said the £20m funding that will support the plan will have a “disproportionate impact”. The money will “target that support much more effectively than arguably we have before”, she said.

It will be used it to expand Scotland’s international presence, trebling the number of trade envoys from four to 12 and helping companies grow existing exports and enter new markets.

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “Scotland has a proud exporting history yet we haven’t kept pace with the progress made by other similar-sized countries.

“Supporting firms to increase their international focus is vital for Scotland’s economic growth. The Trading Nation strategy represents an important step along this journey.

“To achieve the ambitious aim of boosting exports to 25% of our GDP by 2029, we need to ensure existing resources are used as effectively as possible and to maintain a strong partnership between business, government and other stakeholders.”