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Food and Drink Industry (Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2019.

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Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the support it is providing to the food and drink industry. (S5O-03858)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We continue to work with farmers, food producers and industry bodies to drive forward “Ambition 2030: Industry Strategy for Growth”, which is the food and drink strategy. Our programme for government sets out a range of new measures to support the sector, building on work that is already on-going. Direct investment and support to the food and drink sector in Scotland from the public sector across a range of areas including skills, education, research, industry development, standards and capital investment equates to approximately £100 million per annum.

Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

I understand that one measure that is shortly to be introduced will restrict retailers’ promotional activity for and marketing of so-called discretionary foods, including confectionery, sweet biscuits and cakes. At least one retailer has raised concerns with me about the implications of those restrictions for the Scottish Government’s stated ambitions for growth in the food and drink sector. What assurances can the cabinet secretary provide to Scottish businesses that are likely to be impacted by such measures?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

As the member should know, those matters are not within my portfolio. They fall within the portfolio of the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Mr FitzPatrick. He and I work closely on those matters, and I know that he is aware of the concerns that industry may have in relation to any such measures. Part of my task is to ensure that we continue to work collaboratively prior to consideration of whether any such measure should be taken forward.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary share my concerns about the details that emerged from Department for International Trade documents that suggest that the Tories are prepared to ditch Scotland’s valuable protected geographical indications, which I have been highlighting since 2016, and that, even in the very early stages, the US is pressing for United Kingdom autonomy from European Union food and health standards?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Those are extremely important matters. The PGIs for Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and Scotch whisky are vital to the promotion of high-quality Scottish produce, and they cement a premium on such products, which helps the profitability and success of the sectors.

Over the past two years, Ms Cunningham, Ms Gougeon and I have repeatedly made representations on such matters to Mr Gove and others in the United Kingdom Government. Even now, after a couple of years’ work and after constant representations have been made about the importance of such matters, we have not made any progress on the detail. Sadly, the UK Government is fixated on Brexit.

We are also now worried that a trade deal with the USA might further compromise the standards of our agricultural produce. Such a proposal would be utterly unacceptable to the Scottish Government.