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A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for farmers and the farming industry in Mr Arthur’s Renfrewshire constituency, as it would be across Scotland. We will do what we can with the powers that we have, but, as we have said, we will not be able to prevent or mitigate all the impacts. Scotland was first in the UK to offer advance payments by way of a loan scheme to farmers and crofters to help to address concerns and maintain the vital cash flow within the rural economy.
The minister will be aware that farmers who operate in my constituency and the wider area have been engaged in a range of diverse activities, including planting trees. Can she advise what funding will be available for farmers like them to continue to plant trees—diversifying incomes and contributing to our climate change efforts—if we have to leave the EU? I invite her to come to my constituency to meet farmers.
I would be delighted to go to the member’s constituency and to meet anybody who has concerns and would like to discuss them with me. I am glad that the member has raised the issue of forestry. In yesterday’s programme for government announcement, we announced our intention to create 12,000 hectares of new woodland this year, which is 2,000 hectares more than the climate change plan target. However, the UK Government is yet to confirm future funding for forestry. So far, the UK Government has committed to providing
“the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this parliament”, but it still has not set out exactly what it means by “farm support”, despite our repeated calls for clarity on that. The programme for government also makes it clear that we will continue to press the UK Government for that clarity, which farming and forestry desperately need.
The British Egg Industry Council has recently contacted me with concerns about catastrophic tariffs and lowered food standards in the event of a no-deal Brexit. To protect our industries and the quality of produce that we consume, will the Scottish Government continue to put pressure on the reckless UK Government to abandon the notion of leaving the EU without a deal?
Absolutely. As I said in response to Tom Arthur’s question, a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for Scotland, and our primary producers would feel the brunt of that through tariffs, particularly for red meat and sheep meat. We are a responsible Government and we will continue to do everything that we can to prepare for that, but it simply is not possible for us to mitigate all the impacts of leaving the EU without a deal. That is why a no-deal exit must be removed as an option.