South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for the Rural Economy Colin Smyth has said local Conservative MPs have betrayed farmers across the south of Scotland after they voted against an amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons which sought to protect UK farmers from low-standard food imports.
The MSP says South Scotland MPs Alister Jack, David Mundell and John Lamont have serious questions to answer after they ignored calls by farmers including the National Farmers Union to support the amendment.
The amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill, which will be the foundation of UK food and farming policy once the Brexit process is complete, would have ensured that standards for imported food would have to match UK standards.
There are now concerns from farmers that the move could open the UK market to imports of lower quality meat from production systems made cheaper by the unrestricted use of genetically modified crops and hormonal growth promoters, systems very different from Scotland’s grass-based farms.
Despite the UK Government’s assurances and its own manifesto commitment that it would not compromise the UK’s high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection, it chose to overturn a large majority of support in the Lords for the amendment.
Colin Smyth said: “David Mundell, Alister Jack and John Lamont have betrayed farmers across the south of Scotland by voting against this amendment and they now have serious questions to answer.
“They need to account for their actions and explain why they think the many farmers in their constituencies are wrong and they were right to ignore their views.
“This amendment would have helped protect the Scottish food and farming sector from sub-standard imports and it is completely shameful that it was voted down. Farmers don’t believe the UK Government when they claim they will secure these standards in trade deals with countries such as the USA who will be desperate to flood our supermarkets with food created under lower standards.
“This Bill is a very important piece of legislation and without this amendment there is a real fear that the UK market could see an influx of poor-quality meat produced at lower environmental, welfare and food safety standards than those we currently have in place in Scotland.
“Agriculture is a hugely important sector in the south of Scotland and we must ensure that our hard-working farmers and the fantastic food they produce do not suffer as a result of the reckless behaviour of these MPs.”