Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP has sought urgent assurances from the UK Tory Government that Geographical Indicators (GI) and protection of Scotland’s world-renowned produce will continue under any new trade deals the Tories agree to in relation to post-Brexit trade arrangements.
In a letter to UK Ministers, Mr Ewing challenged the lack of clarity being shown by the UK Government in relation to GI, such as Protected Food Names, in discussions so far.
Mr Ewing wrote that the lack of clarity, coupled with the frequency in which the media is reporting apparent future trade deals being discussed where GIs are either an afterthought or not deemed important is creating some real concerns for many stakeholders across Scotland.
He furthermore wrote:
"The time is right for us to see some concrete assurances from the UK Government that not only do you consider GIs and protection of our world-renowned produce to be of great importance and will seek to continue the protection offered by holding the status, but that the UK Government will give them their rightful place at the forefront of future trade negotiations.
"Your government has said on many occasions that the future trade policy of the UK must reflect the needs of all parts of the UK and will take an inclusive approach to the development of policy and future trade agreements. For Scotland, the inclusion of GIs in trade deals is not only a need, but a pre-requisite; after all we are home to some of the highest value GIs in Europe.
"Indeed, a UK Government consultation paper last October ‘Preparing for our future UK trade policy’ specifically said that devolved administrations, legislatures and others “must have the opportunity to engage with and contribute to our trade policy”, but there has been little or no sign since that your government are serious in this. I’m aware that officials from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met their UK Government counterparts in London on 15 March to consider practical ways to improve the situation. As yet there has been no progress with this.
"We therefore urge you and your government to set the record straight and commit to not only guaranteeing continued protection for current holders of GI status, but also providing the assurance being desperately sought by stakeholders that protection for our iconic products will be integral to future trade deals."
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Scotland is world-renowned for its distinct quality produce. For example, Scotch Beef, Scottish Wild Salmon and of course Scotch Whisky. To keep that distinction is incredibly important to our Food and Drink sector.
“The UK Government may not attach much importance to keeping the UK as a brand, but we should at least be given the opportunity to protect Scotland the brand.
“It is time that whoever is in charge of Brexit negotiations this week starts listening to Scotland before it is too late.”