Defra has denied accusations that it failed to protect iconic Scottish food produce from counterfeiters in new EU trade deals.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing had slammed the UK Government for neglecting Scottish farming interests after it emerged Scottish food names were not listed for protection in new EU trade deals with Canada, Japan and Mexico.
As things currently stand, leading products such as Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scottish Farmed Salmon would receive no protection under EU ‘Geographical Indication’ rules.
Mr Ewing has written to Defra Secretary Michael Gove to ask why the Scottish Government was not fully consulted on the inclusion of protected food names, but a Defra spokesman told Farmers Guardian the EU Commission was responsible for deciding which products were registered in negotiation with third countries.
The Cabinet Secretary’s letter read: “As I am sure you appreciate, our protected food name producers value the protection Geographical Indication provides and the omission of products could put the industry at a commercial disadvantage.
“Despite getting previous assurances that the Scottish Government would be fully consulted on the CETA [Canadian] deal for inclusion of protected food names, that has not materialised.
“I would therefore be grateful for your assurance you will urgently review the process within your department for consultation with devolved administrations on both current and future trade deals.”
NFU Scotland also weighed into the row, pointing out protected food names were an important part of the Scottish brand and demanding they be secured as part of all trade deals.
Union chief executive Scott Walker said: “This must be a wake-up call to all those in Government who hope in the future it will be the UK which is striking trade deals on its own rather than through the EU.
“The UK should have put all our protected food names on the protected list. It is not about what we export to these countries now, but what we might export in the future.
“All is not lost, as there will be an opportunity to add to the list when the CETA application is reviewed, but it is this sort of detail which the UK Government needs to pay attention to as it looks to strike its own trade deals after we have left the EU.”