South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson Colin Smyth has said a trade deal with Australia that could result in a flood of cheaper produced food imports into the UK would have a ‘devastating impact’ on agriculture across the south of Scotland.
The local MSP raised his concerns while speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate on tariff free trade deals last week (8 June).
He said: “Scottish agriculture is at the heart of our world-class food and drink industry and, beyond its economic value, is central to the viability of our rural communities in the south of Scotland.
“The needs of the sector must therefore be an integral part of any trade deals, and those deals should meet the future ambitions of the sector.
“At a time when we must continue to drive up standards, cut emissions, use land more sustainably and improve animal welfare, those ambitions cannot be undermined by trade deals.
“When the Agriculture Bill was passing through Westminster, the UK Government claimed that there was no risk to standards. The sector’s fears were dismissed. Legal protections that had been added to the bill by Labour were removed. The proposed trade deal with Australia will be the first test of whether the UK Government’s warm words about supporting the agriculture sector were only that.
“The deal, which would have no quotas, tariffs or real safeguards, will have a devastating impact on the agriculture sector if it is agreed.
“More than that, it would signify a willingness to sell out agriculture, not only here in Scotland but across the UK, setting an expectation for future trade deals. It is little wonder that every single farming and crofting representative group in Scotland, from the NFU to Scottish Crofting Federation, have expressed concern over this deal but sadly Tory politicians have refused to listen.”