'Agricultural wasteland' threat for Scotland due to Australia trade deal

Scotland’s farming industry would become an “agricultural wasteland” if a tariff-free trade deal is struck with Australia, an SNP MSP has said.

Jim Fairlie, one of the SNP’s 2021 Holyrood intake, will lead a debate on the trade deal, which the SNP has warned could lead to “hugely damaging consequences” for Scottish farmers due to the inclusion of tariff-free access for Australian lamb, beef and pork.

The Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP said: “Scotland’s food exports are world-renowned for their quality and make an incredible contribution to Scotland’s economy.

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"It cannot be stressed enough how much damage a tariff-free deal would do to the industry, with farmers and crofters being undercut by imports that are lower in price and lower in quality.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is negotiating a trade deal with Australia

“In many communities, including in my constituency, farming is a way of life and the prospect of a tariff-free deal could mean many family businesses, which have been passed on through the generations, going out of business. The Tories are threatening an agricultural wasteland for Scotland.

“Once again Scotland’s food sector is under threat from the Tories and their pursuit of Brexit. They have already wreaked havoc on Scotland's fishing sector – we cannot see the same happen to our world-class farmers.

“All this demonstrates is that Scotland would be better off as an independent country within the European Union, where industries would be part of the single market and customs union.”

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the Scottish Government has been “shut out” of the trade negotiations, with the SNP maintaining the deal would not offset the damage done to Scotland by Brexit.

Writing in The Herald, international trade secretary Liz Truss said the SNP would rather deny the UK a deal with Australia and rejoin the European Union.

She said: “”A gold standard agreement with our allies Australia, which is now in sight, would mark the next generation of trade deals. It is set to be the first deal we have negotiated from scratch as a newly independent trading nation.

“We can do more than ever together to break down the barriers holding back our exports and propel them to greater success Down Under.”

Ms Truss has also claimed an Australian trade deal could remove whisky tariffs, a potential money-spinner for the industry in Scotland.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, a tariff cut would boost sales and support distillers across Scotland, with the industry supporting more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland and more than 40,000 across the UK.

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “Any deal we sign will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards.

“This is a deal for the whole Union. Our exports minister was in Scotland last week to champion the benefits of the Australia FTA [free trade agreement], highlighting how a tariff reduction would benefit iconic goods like Scotch whisky.

“A deal with Australia will boost the UK’s bid to join CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership], providing a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region, where there is growing demand for our products.”

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