Leaving the European Single Market would be disastrous for Scotland’s Farming and Food sectors, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.
As millions of people prepare to celebrate the Bard on January 25 by enjoying some iconic Scottish food and drink, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity has called for protection of access to markets for Scottish producers.
“Burns Night is celebrated by millions of people in Scotland and all around the world. It is a date that highlights the esteem with which Scottish culture and produce is exported and enjoyed around the world.
“The EU is Scotland’s biggest overseas regional food and drink export market, with exports of food and drink worth £2 billion in 2015. We simply can’t ignore the disastrous impact that leaving the Single Market, and the 500 million people within it, could have on our food and drink sector.
“One example of the threat that the Hard Brexit, outlined this week by the Prime Minister, poses for our wider economy can be seen in the Scottish potato, a staple part of any Burns supper.
“The value of Scotland’s potato sector is £167 million, and we currently export Scottish potatoes to EU markets, tariff free, whilst relying on free movement of people for all stages of production and retail, including growing, harvesting, storing, transporting and selling.
“A ‘Hard Brexit’ would be devastating for Scottish agriculture and the many food companies which rely on Scottish produce. Potentially, they face both high tariffs of up to 50% and loss of subsidy support. It may also put at risk Scottish protected food names which give confidence to consumers, and the common regulatory frameworks which help maintain food safety, animal and plant health standards and guarantee access to EU markets and many other countries.
“Potentially worst of all would be the impact on the labour market. In 2014, almost 40% of people employed in the UK Food and Drink Manufacturing sector were foreign-born, with the majority of these from within the EU. This week, Skills Development Scotland published their Skills Investment Plan for the Food and Drink industry, highlighting the importance of EU migrants to the current sector and in supporting future growth.
“Unlike the UK Government, we value the contribution that non-UK EU nationals bring to our economy and society, contributing to sustainable economic growth, mitigating the effects of demographic change and enriching our culture and communities.
“I would encourage anyone enjoying a Burns supper this year to reflect on the role EU membership plays in enriching our culture and communities, supporting our economy and in the production of much of Scotland’s food and drink.”