The relationship between NFU Scotland and the Scottish Conservative Party has plunged to a new low this week, following a very public spat between recently-elected party leader Douglas Ross MP and the union’s head of policy Jonnie Hall.
The row developed following a BBC Good Morning Scotland interview, where Mr Ross was pushed on his voting record on post-Brexit food standards.
Mr Ross voted against Clause 11 in the UK Trade Bill, which would have required imports to meet the same standards as domestically-produced food.
He claimed his position had been supported by Mr Hall in a Scottish Affairs Committee hearing in June.
In a heated exchange which continued throughout the day, Mr Hall said he was ‘fuming’, because his agreement that MPs had not voted to reduce standards in the past was very different to the union’s views on Clause 11.
He added: “I was asked by Mr Ross if MPs had ever voted against reducing standards and I gave the honest and straightforward answer that they had not.
“But my answer has been taken out of context and turned through 180 degrees to misrepresent the situation. It is not the first time we have had exchanges with this particular MP.”
To avoid any confusion, NFUS reiterated its view that food imported to the UK should meet domestic standards later in the day.
Mr Ross told Farmers Guardian the transcript of the Scottish Affairs Committee hearing in question ‘made it clear’ he represented Mr Hall’s comments ‘accurately’.
“However, I welcome the chance to engage constructively with the NFU to make it clear once again that the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for Scotland’s farmers, now and in the future,” he said.
“As I have stated categorically, I will never vote for any Bill which reduces Scotland’s world-class food standards.”