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Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has issued a stark warning in the Scottish Parliament about the catastrophic impact that tariff-free trade deals could have on Scottish crofters and farmers.
In an impassioned speech the Islands MSP voiced his concerns about the UK Government’s decision to offer trade deal terms to Australia which could see Australian farmers granted tariff-free access to UK markets and make it easier for them to export products like lamb, pork and beef.
Mr Allan warned of the consequences of domestic producers being crowded-out of the market by cheaper and lower-quality food imports because of a lack of safeguards for domestic agriculture.
The proposed trade deal has also been heavily criticised by the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation.
Mr Allan said: ‘While we all want to pursue good trading relationships between the UK and nations such as Australia, there are serious concerns which need to be addressed about the impact on Scotland’s farmers and crofters.
‘Are we really saying that countries in Europe which have broadly similar standards on animal welfare, the use of hormones, and on environmental impacts should pay tariffs, while countries which may be unconstrained by any of these factors should have tariff-free access to our supermarkets?
‘How can agriculture in Scotland and the UK be competitive on price in such a situation without severely compromising all these standards? We may begin with Australia, but what do we do if such a deal is also reached with major food producers like Brazil, whose environmental and other standards are so unlike ours as to raise even bigger concerns.
‘This could have a catastrophic impact on crofting and farming communities. However, it seems the UK Government is heedless of the damage these deals may do as it rushes headlong into any trade deals with anyone in its frantic efforts to pick up the pieces from a Brexit disaster of its own making.
‘This serves to underline why such huge decisions on Scottish agriculture should be in Scotland’s hands rather than Whitehall’s.’