Speaking to the National Newspaper, the Brexit minister admitted that the country’s EU protected food and drink brands, which are worth more than £1 billion to the Scottish economy, could be at risk following the Brexit process.
Russell said that the protection of these vital products and their PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, had not even been considered by the “little Englanders” who pursued a “vitriolic and overwhelmingly untruthful anti-European campaign”.
Scotland currently has 14 of the UK’s 84 PGI food and drink products, with the EU guaranteeing that no trademark interference can occur in reference to the name of an area, region or, in exceptional cases, a country, used as a description in the name of any food or drink brands.
The most popular examples of Scottish PGI products include the Arbroath Smokie, Scottish wild and farmed salmon and Scotch whisky, while several other of the country’s brands are also in the process of being considered for the scheme.
Mr Russell said: “Protected Geographical Indicators not only guard us against cheap imitations but they also serve as great ambassadors for this beautiful but small country. They help people to get to know us and they build a brand loyalty which is, and will remain, of great benefit to us.”
He added that this fact didn’t please those Brexiteers who “want Britain to be the only trademark from these islands”.
The politician stated that during the coming Brexit negotiations, the Scottish and British governments need to ensure that there is “a special place for Scottish PGIs” in any new structure that emerges.
He said: “We should be developing our own plans for such a system , and ones that integrate well with the continuing European process. In this area ‘regulatory convergence’ should be our aim and describe the minimum of what we need to achieve.”
Mr Russell was keen to point out that 2018 would be a “crucial year for Scotland” and that Brexit threatens Scots in a variety of ways.
He finished by stating: “Scotland’s people will, at some stage, have to choose whether they are prepared to accept the package as negotiated by a Tory government that hasn’t thought about, and doesn’t care about, our vital needs (or those of Wales or Northern Ireland) or whether we want to pursue a different path, retaining the EU membership that has been, and can still be, so useful for us.”