Scottish steel is a quality product that is exported to many overseas markets including the United States of America. We are extremely disappointed by the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium, which is a completely unjustified and unjustifiable decision. Blanket tariffs of 25 per cent on steel exports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports are a seriously retrograde step that will have wider unintended negative impacts across a range of industrial sectors. We have been in contact with the United Kingdom Government since the issue first arose in order to minimise any impact that the ill-conceived tariffs may have on Scotland’s steel and aluminium producers.
The industry body UK Steel has said:
“It is difficult to see what good can come of these tariffs” and that
“UK steel producers are going to be hit hard”.
I attended the European Union steel summit in 2016, and the message then was—as it is now—that global overcapacity can be solved only by multilateral discussions through established international channels.
In the face of Brexit uncertainty and the potential trade war that flies in the face of the Brexiteers’ trade optimism, does the First Minister agree that the importance of the European Union and access to the single market are imperatives for the steel industry both in my constituency and in the UK?
The member is right to raise the matter from her constituency perspective. Scottish steel is a quality product, and that includes the specialist heavy plate that is produced by Liberty Steel Dalzell in Lanarkshire. The issue affects parts of the country very seriously.
I agree with Clare Adamson’s comments. It is a cliché—many people say it—but it is still true that nobody wins in trade wars; there are only losers. The decision by the US Administration to impose tariffs on exports from the EU and other countries is completely unjustified. It is also at odds with World Trade Organization rules.
As we have said consistently and will continue to say, the only way to protect our economy in Scotland and in the UK is through continued single market and customs union membership. We still hope that that is the position that the UK Government will eventually adopt, once it stops imploding as it is doing at the moment.
In all seriousness, the situation underlines how utterly ill advised it is for the UK Government to be withdrawing the UK from the single market and customs union and pinning all its hopes on a trade deal with the current US Administration. If it did not know that that was ill advised before, it should certainly know that now.
Can the First Minister advise whether the Scottish Government has had any conversations with Liberty, in particular, regarding the effects that such tariffs may have on the future operations and the viability of its Cambuslang site?
Clare Haughey is right to raise her constituency interest in Clydebridge. The Scottish Government has regular discussions with Liberty Steel. We have an excellent relationship with it, and it is a member of the steel sector round table, which meets regularly. The subject of US tariffs was discussed in detail at the most recent meeting of that group, at the end of March, which was chaired by the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy and was attended by representatives of Liberty Steel.
My officials had further discussions with Liberty on the issue of tariffs and their impact just this week. We will continue to speak to Liberty Steel and will make representations to the UK Government, raising its concerns.