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European Union Regulations (Standards and Protections)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th November 2019.

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Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the level playing field provision.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Mr Torrance, that is not the question that I have in front of me, which is about the impact on Scotland’s rural economy of the UK Government moving away from European Union standards and protections.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

I apologise, Presiding Officer. Someone has printed off the wrong question for me.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

To ask the Scottish Government what the impact could be on Scotland’s rural economy of the United Kingdom Government moving away from the standards and protections that are offered by EU regulations. (S5O-03719)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The UK Government’s decision will have a detrimental effect on all aspects of Scottish rural life and will remove the standards and protections that Scotland is currently afforded. It puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage in terms of exporting our produce to European markets, and our organic produce will lose its recognition status on the European Union market. Scottish produce could also lose the geographical indication protections that we currently enjoy.

Those are just some of the reasons why the Scottish Government entirely opposes the UK Government’s position.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

Boris Johnson wrote to Donald Tusk last month to say that the UK Government wants to move away from the standards and protections that are offered by EU regulations. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that represents a threat to the future of the common frameworks project, given the implications for significant areas of devolved competence, such as environmental protection, regulations on genetically modified crops, marine policy and energy?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Yes. The agreement in October 2017 to the joint intergovernmental programme of work on common frameworks was reached when all four Administrations agreed that level playing field commitments should be maintained, should the UK leave the EU.

A move away from that shared assumption of continued regulatory alignment would have implications for the development of common frameworks, because it would widen the scope for policy divergence between the Administrations in the different parts of the UK to a much greater degree than was anticipated when work on the project began. That could be damaging to Scotland’s interests, not least in maintaining high standards in animal welfare and plant health.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

I declare an interest: I am a farmer.

The UK has led the way on standards, as far as animal welfare and environmental issues are concerned, for a long number of years and there is no reason to believe that that will change, post-Brexit. Our standards could rise, post-Brexit. Does the minister recognise that?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Perhaps they will in Scotland, but I have serious concerns about that elsewhere. When we compare the previous protocol with what we have now, we see that the previous protocol set out specific environmental and climate change commitments, including non-regression in the level of environmental protection, respect for environmental principles, commitments to joint setting of minimum air quality standards and other such measures. Those commitments are not included in the revised protocol.

That is seriously concerning to the Scottish Government, as I said in answer to David Torrance.