SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, has warned that the Tory Government’s assault on devolution poses a significant threat to North Ayrshire’s food sector.
The amendments published last week to Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill could prevent the Scottish Parliament from legislating to protect farming, food standards, plant health and the environment for up to seven years, fundamentally undermining the devolution settlement.
This follows a statement from the president of America’s National Farmers’ Union last week supporting the view that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef should be part of a UK/US free trade deal. Lowering food standards in North Ayrshire is not only a public health risk, it will tarnish Scotland’s reputation for high quality produce and put our food producers at a competitive disadvantage.
In the same week, the European Union secured a bilateral trade agreement with Mexico that will allow 99% of the EU’s agricultural food exports duty-free access to a market of over 127 million people in Mexico. This further demonstrates the benefits that North Ayrshire’s food and drink sector stands to lose if we have to leave the EU.
Commenting, Ruth said:
“The amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill are wholly inadequate. The legislation still represents an assault on devolution, enabling the Tories to do whatever they want to North Ayrshire’s food industry and get away with it.
“These amendments would take powers over farming support, plant health, food standards and the environment away from the Scottish Parliament for seven years. The Bill as it stands would allow the Tories to dictate policy on key issues, like funding for farming and environmental rules without Scotland having a say or the power to prevent harm being done to the interests of Ayrshire.
“The food and drink sector in Ayrshire is a huge success, built on the quality of the produce, like beef, lamb, bacon, pork and dairy produce – and of course the famous Ayrshire ‘Tattie’.
“That provenance of product is key to our export success and we cannot let cheap US imports, enabled by this Tory Government, undermine that.
“Michael Gove has repeatedly refused to guarantee that his Government won’t impose frameworks on Scotland that could force these second-rate products onto our supermarket shelves, and we need to take a stand against this.”