Urgent action is required from the UK Government in Brexit talks to protect Scotland’s world-renowned food and drink produce, according to the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs Fergus Ewing.
In an article, Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator with the UK, said the UK Government has not yet agreed to protect “Geographical Indications” such as Scotch Whisky.
The Scottish Government has been pressing the UK Government to agree a need for a UK GI System post-Brexit.
The current list of protected Geographical Indicators includes Scotch Whisky, Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, Scottish Farmed Salmon and Scottish Wild Salmon.
Scotland’s food and drink sector generated £13.9 billion of turnover in 2016.
Ewing said: “Maintaining our Protected Food Names and other Geographical Indications following Brexit is vital – this is something that we have been calling for the UK Government to do for a long time.
“The European Commission’s Chief Negotiator recognises the significant contribution that these producers make to the wider economy.
“We have been pressing UK Government to agree a need for a UK GI System post-Brexit from the outset and, while we welcome confirmation in their White Paper of the plans to do so, there remains a question over maintaining the existing protection currently enjoyed by our producers within the EU through the mutual recognition of our protected products.
“It is extremely alarming that the EU says this has not yet been resolved and that the failure of the UK Government to reach agreement on this issue is being cited as one of the obstacles to reaching an overall Withdrawal Agreement.
“A No Deal outcome would be catastrophic for our food and drink industry and the economy as a whole.
“The UK Government must make it clear it is not preparing to ditch vital Geographical Indications to facilitate a future trade deal with the US.
“It must rule out No Deal and reach an agreement that protects our world-class produce.
“Scottish food and drink exports are at an all-time high – with world-renowned Scottish goods like salmon and whisky being consumed across the globe at record levels.
“That’s due in part to sectors working together to sell our remarkable products, and creating or enhancing our national brands.
“Even in this time of uncertainty we will continue to do everything we can to support the growth of food and drink exports, working with key sectors to develop new and existing markets, boosting innovation and skills, and supporting Scotland’s local producers via business rates exemptions and grants.”