Losses linked to Brexit have been enormous

Fishing faces export uncertainty after Brexit trade deal.
Fishing faces export uncertainty after Brexit trade deal.

Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing worries about the long-term impact of Brexit on Scotland’s food and drink industry.

Since the start of the new year I have, in my capacity as rural secretary, been working hard to help businesses that have been hit hard by Brexit.

Seafood and meat exporters have been caught up in a fankle of red tape resultant from the new systems that apply from Brexit.

Sadly, the UK government did not agree the industry request for a six-month grace period, to work out the new systems and sort out the very complex IT and paperwork processes.

The losses to many businesses and people have been enormous, so much so that after pressing the UK government for compensation alongside my Westminster colleagues, the Prime Minister eventually has conceded that this will be paid.

However, the long-term damage to Scotland’s food and drink, and short-term loss of protected geographical indications (PGIs) which confer a market premium such as Scotch Beef and Lamb, Arbroath Smokies and so on could be substantial.

This is compounded by the pandemic affecting both national and international trade, with hospitality supplies essentially suspended due to restrictions.

The seafood sector has been particularly hard hit, with companies having little time to put in place new business practices to export to the EU and Northern Ireland and difficulties understanding new customs and export certification processes.

I have written to the secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, George Eustice, to demand that he urgently sets out how Scotland’s exporters will be compensated for their losses, both in the short-term and the long-term caused by reputational damage.

It was very sad news that the Nairnshire Telegraph published its last edition. I have known and worked with Iain Bain and his team for three decades, and he has provided local news over this period week in, week out.

Local newspapers are trusted by people more than nationals which more often have a political or other agenda.

Local papers are a key part of the democratic system. Iain was truly independent of mind, and set out local news alongside his editorial comments in a balanced and fair fashion.

While I intervened to assist in ensuring that his paper benefited from Scottish Government advertising, the difficulties during Covid-19 have exacerbated the already challenging commercial scene, and one can fully understand his decision to call it a day.


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