6. To ask the Scottish Government what support is being provided to Scotland’s food and drink industry in response to exporting issues as a result of Brexit. (S5O-05014)
The Scottish Government chairs the weekly food sector resilience group, whose members are industry leaders across the sector, in order that it can take quick and decisive action where necessary.
The seafood sector has been particularly hard hit. On Friday, I launched the £6.45 million seafood producers resilience fund to support businesses that have lost all or part of their relevant market due to the Covid-19 pandemic and European Union exit.
We have also provided funding to Seafood Scotland to allow recruitment of three Brexit advisers to work with businesses that are struggling to adapt to the new requirements arising from the United Kingdom’s departure from the single market.
The on-going financial chaos of Tory Brexit has left Scottish fishermen and coastal communities high and dry. The UK Government announced support that the industry considers derisory. What support has the Scottish Government put in place to help people to meet their day-to-day costs, and will the Scottish Government continue to argue for a better deal for our vital seafood sector?
Yes, we will continue to fight for the sector with the UK Government—I do so day and daily. The saddest thing about the UK Government’s failure to recognise the plight of, for example, inshore fishermen, who have had no income for some time now due to the huge difficulties caused by Brexit, is that the families depend on those exports to get food on the table and roofs over their heads. We are starting to hear from local fisheries associations that people are telling them, “I have nothing left—I can’t feed the family or pay the rent”. Therefore, we have stepped in pretty quickly to set up the fund in order to alleviate hardship. I am pleased that we are able to do so, and we are working hard to get the money out of the door to where it is required as quickly as possible.
The trade dispute between the UK and the USA is having an adverse impact on the Scotch whisky industry, which had absolutely nothing to do with the cause of the dispute. There is a distillery in my constituency, and some of my constituents work at others that are a few miles away. Will the Scottish Government explain to the UK Government that the mess needs to be sorted out, and that it should be much more proactive to get the job done?
I am familiar with the Glengoyne distillery, which produces marvellous, fine Scotch whisky. The tariffs have been in place for more than a year, and have cost the sector an unbelievable £500 million. My colleagues and I have taken every opportunity—most recently, in a call last week between my colleague Ivan McKee and the UK Minister of State for Trade Policy—to press the UK Government to resolve the situation and bring it to an end.