Just as haggis takes off, Scottish produce needs miracle to avoid Brexit disaster – leader comment

If the UK crashes out the EU without a trade deal, as many fear because of Boris Johnson’s unrealistic timetable, Scottish food and drink exports could be 50 per cent more expensive on the Continent.
'Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!''Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!'
'Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!'

From Hong Kong to Canada and Ghana to Iceland, there is now a burgeoning market for that most Scottish of foods, haggis, after an astonishing increase in exports of 136 per cent over the past decade.

And, according to haggis-maker MacSween, there is the potential for even more growth in the Middle East and Asia, in particular in the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan.

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So it would seem that the world is – finally – coming round to something that most Scots know well: haggis is wonderful, especially so when accompanied by neeps and tatties, its vegetable soulmates. And decent vegetarian haggis is so good that the argument the term should be restricted to meat – as some insist should be the case for the words ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ – has hardly been heard.

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UK Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers was delighted by the export news, noting Robert Burns was “so enamoured with haggis that he dedicated an entire poem to the delicacy and it’s wonderful that it continues to be enjoyed around the world more than 200 years later”.

However, there are worrying signs that may cause a frown on the “honest, sonsie face” of the “great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race”, among others.  For, according to James Withers, chief executive of industry body Scotland Food and Drink, Brexit could result in price rises of 50 per cent or more on Scottish produce sold in the European Union unless the UK Government can negotiate a good trade deal with Brussels. And he said it would take a “miracle” for such a deal to be struck under the timetable set by Boris Johnson, who is insisting the UK’s Brexit transition period will end by December this year.

Burns’ praise for haggis focused on its wholesome and hearty qualities. Nothing too fancy – just good honest food, tasty and filling, yet moreish too.

Johnson has spoken of a new Golden Age for Britain as a result of Brexit, adding to the weight of optimistic talk based on little more than wishful thinking and nostalgic dreams of the days when it was true to sing “Britannia rules the waves”. So we have heard a lot of insubstantial hype about this supposedly wonderful recipe for national success.

Now it’s time to sit down and taste the dish. The proof will be in the puddin’, so to speak. And, as Burns wrote, “Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware, That jaups in luggies”.