4. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure the continuation of Scottish seed potato exports in the event of a no-deal Brexit. (S5O-03722)
The Scottish Government has met regularly with Scottish seed potato representatives to understand the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit. Most recently, I raised those concerns directly with United Kingdom Government ministers at a meeting that was held with the devolved Administrations in Edinburgh on 10 October.
The Scottish Government has also written to the UK Government seeking assurances that Scottish seed potato exports to third countries would not be impacted by a no-deal Brexit.
This is yet another sector of the industry in which there is unacceptable uncertainty. Egypt and the Canary Islands are two of Scotland’s major export markets for our seed potatoes, and there is a strong case for the rolling over of existing export agreements with them.
Will the minister continue to impress on the next UK Government the need to protect the export market for the 60,000 tonnes of seed potatoes that are exported from Scotland under current trading arrangements?
I can give Angus MacDonald an absolute assurance on that. Our seed potatoes are prized around the world because of their high health status, and we simply cannot afford to have that business put at risk by Brexit. The issue disproportionately affects us in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK.
I have been in regular contact with the British Potato Trade Association to hear its concerns and, in turn, to impress those concerns on the UK Government.
It will not surprise anyone in the chamber to hear that people in Scotland did not vote for Brexit. Despite that, this is another example of a very successful sector in the Scottish rural economy that might have to pay a high price because of Brexit.
On a number of occasions, I have raised with the UK Government the issues of tariffs and future trading arrangements with the likes of Egypt and the Canary Islands—I wrote most recently about those issues on 2 October. We still have absolutely no clarity about what future trading arrangements will be and whether the sector will be affected. We will continue to work with the sector and to press the UK Government to get a positive outcome for our seed potato producers.