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In Scotland, as elsewhere, Tories are preparing to sacrifice farmers on the Brexit altar

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, the Tories are preparing to sacrifice farmers on the Brexit altar by trying to prevent the Scottish Government from maintaining EU standards, says John Finnie, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

The news that one of the UK’s largest veterinary firms has called on the retail and foodservice sector to give priority to British produce, even if future trade deals enable the import of food produced to a lower standard, is indicative of where Brexit has led us.

 

Ian Cure, farm director at Vet Partners, asked that UK retailers prioritise Red Tractor certified produce and avoid dedicating shelf space to imports made to lower standards.

 

He rightly pointed out that opening up our market to countries with far lower welfare standards would either leave UK producers competing on an uneven playing field or necessitate lowering UK standards, thus further isolating farmers from the lucrative EU market.

 

Reliance

 

This is on top of the significant environmental harm which comes from increasing our reliance on shipping huge quantities of food from distant markets.

 

All of the points made by Ian are valid, important and cut to the heart of the issues facing UK farmers in the coming years.

 

The problem is, the big businesses to which he sends his appeal are under no obligation to listen.

 

The Tories’ reckless pursuit of trade deals with countries who operate to much lower agricultural standards will leave farmers at the mercy of the goodwill of the retail giants.

 

Quality

 

If they decide to pursue profit over quality, then domestic producers will find themselves in an incredibly difficult situation.

 

What are the prospects of the big supermarkets and food businesses voluntarily choosing to do the right thing, when a more profitable avenue exists?

 

Their sole directive is making money for the shareholders, even if that comes at the expense of farmers.

 

Essentially, the interests of both consumers and farmers have been completely abandoned by the Conservatives in the fanatical pursuit of a Brexit fantasy.

 

Mitigate

 

The Scottish Conservatives have also done their level best to tie the Scottish Government’s hands in terms of its ability to mitigate the worst effects of this oncoming crisis.

 

Their attempt to amend the Agriculture Bill currently progressing through Holyrood is indicative of a race to the bottom approach.

 

This amendment would have required the Scottish Parliament to legislate only to equivalent agriculture standards set out in UK legislation, not the higher EU standards people want.

 

Altar

 

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, the Tories have shown an alarming willingness to sacrifice farmers and crofters on the altar of Brexit.

 

Scottish produce is rightly world-renowned for its quality, but current Tory manoeuvres appear to be designed specifically to undermine that reputation.

 

This is a party that talks a lot about protecting the farm sector but seems hell bent on pursuing policies which could do untold harm to the industry.

 

John can be found tweeting at @JohnFinnieHI

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