Food and Drink Industry (Brexit)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact that leaving the European Union will have on the food and drink industry. (S5O-03095)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

If the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a deal on 12 April, Scotland will experience substantial disruptive impacts across the food and drink sector, which will be felt by those who supply this vital sector. The highest risks in the immediate term are as a consequence of significant disruption to the flow of goods across the Channel. Our seafood sector, which accounts for 58 per cent of our overall food exports, is likely to be particularly affected, given the just-in-time and perishable nature of that trade.

It is also worth noting that, as James Withers of Scotland Food & Drink has stated, the impact on our food and drink sector would likely cost us somewhere in the region of £2 billion, which is a cost that we can ill afford.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

Is the Scottish Government initiative to support businesses that are affected by Brexit open to food and drink companies? How might companies in my constituency of Cunninghame South access that funding?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Food and drink businesses can apply for that funding. Our initiative to support businesses is being promoted through our enterprise agencies, which have produced a self-assessment toolkit and checklist and are offering access to events and expert advice. The details can be found at www.prepareforbrexit.scot.

The Brexit support grant provides 100 per cent funding—from a minimum of £2,000 to a maximum of £4,000—to help VAT-registered small and medium-sized enterprises manage a wide range of Brexit impacts. Information about the scheme has been placed in the Scottish Parliament information centre, and I encourage all members to make relevant businesses in their constituencies aware of the grant, as well as the Brexit self-assessment toolkit.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

A significant amount of Scottish lamb is exported to the EU. What will the minister do to support sheep farmers in Scotland if there is a no-deal Brexit or, indeed, if we end up in a backstop situation?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I thank Rhoda Grant for raising that question, because we identified sheep meat as one of the areas that would probably be worst affected, especially by a no-deal Brexit. Together with the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, I have attended the Scottish Government resilience committee meetings. As well as those meetings, we have the fortnightly food sector resilience group meetings, which involve all sectors across the industry, with the purpose of establishing exactly what the issues are and what contingency measures we can put in place to try to prevent the worst-case scenario that we could well be facing.

The point to bear in mind is that not all the issues are in our control in Scotland. We are simply trying to mitigate the worst aspects, as far as possible. We are working as closely as we can with the industry to prevent some of the worst impacts.