I would like to congratulate Karen Adam for her recent election as MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, and wish her predecessor Stewart Stevenson all the very best and thank him for his many years of service to the area.
I look forward to working with all our elected representatives across the North East as we all focus on the much-needed economic recovery from the pandemic and towards a successful energy transition towards net zero.
The North East is extremely well placed to not only lead the change to a sustainable and renewable energy future, but also to be at the forefront of developing new technology and expertise that can be exported around the world.
On the subject of exports, I was delighted at the news last week that the process began for the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a trading bloc of 11 nations in the Asia-pacific region and some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
Much has also been reported of the prospect of a free trade agreement with Australia.
I regularly engage with farmers, NFU Scotland and other food and drink trade bodies on a range of issues – including the concerns raised in recent reports.
There is much for all of Scotland’s food and drink producers to be positive about in a free trade deal with Australia and the other CPTPP nations.
This is a huge opportunity to increase exports to rapidly growing markets with a high demand for precisely the kind of high-quality produce Scotland has.
And we have less to fear from Australian imports than some would have us believe.
Import volumes are expected to be relatively low and the UK Government remains resolute on our manifesto commitment that we will not compromise on our animal welfare, food safety and environment standards.