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A Trading Nation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2019.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate, and I support the Scottish Government’s motion and welcome the significant investment of £20 million in the trading nation strategy.

At the outset, I put on record again the fact that Scotland has the most fantastic goods—particularly food and drink—which are produced by our hard-working farmers, producers and small and medium-sized enterprises. Indeed, our world-class goods and produce—I say “world-class” because it is important to be bold and to be proud of what our country can achieve—are sought after around the globe. They are known for their provenance, their quality and—in relation to our food and drink—their delicious taste. The food and drink sector is worth more than £2.5 million per day to Scotland’s economy—that is £912.5 million each year—so imagine what we could do with the money if it stayed here in Scotland.

As well as our food and drink sector, we have an equally important engineering and manufacturing sector. I am pleased about the recent creation of the Dumfries and Galloway manufacturing and engineering forum, which brings together local businesses, such as Jas P Wilson, DuPont and BSW Timber, to share best practice, experience and knowledge. The forum supports trade with, and access to, wider EU and international markets. I hope that the minister will accept the invite, which I have sent to him, to meet members of the forum to see what support the Scottish Government might be able to offer.

However, our goods in Scotland are under threat due to the national uncertainty around Brexit. From previous contributions that I have made in the chamber, members will know that I have been carrying out a great deal of work on protected geographical indicators. PGIs are awarded by the EU to Scottish goods to ensure that they are not open to cheap and inferior imitation by other countries and businesses around the world. The indicators protect Scotch whisky—which is worth almost £5 billion to the UK economy each year—Scotch beef, Scotch lamb, Arbroath smokies, Ayrshire Dunlop cheese and even Ayrshire tatties from my South Scotland region. Such protection could be negotiated away by a UK Government that is in pursuit of cheap trade deals with America. Not only might our farmers, producers and small and medium-sized enterprises suffer from such trade deals, but we could end up with lower-quality food being brought into Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK.

Food with low animal welfare standards, poor provenance and that is treated, such as chlorinated chicken, may present health risks. I am sure that members will agree that we do not want to include chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef in our trade deals or see Scotch whisky from Tennessee on our supermarket shelves. I absolutely oppose changing the PGI status of any of our fantastic produce and I ask the Scottish Government to continue to do all that it can to prevent such an occurrence.

In the face of the current EU exit uncertainty, I am pleased that the Scottish Government’s “A Trading Nation” publication gives a clear signal of Scotland’s ambition to remain an open and progressive nation where our businesses trade in global markets. Dean Lockhart mentioned the lack of information about digital support, but page 70 of “A Trading Nation”, in section 6.4, which is titled “Digital support”, talks about

“Working with ... partners ... to seize the ... opportunities via trading digitally.”