At the beginning of the month I was delighted to host a Roundtable with local farmers and regional NFU Scotland representatives to hear from International Trade Minister, Greg Hands MP, who addressed their concerns and queries over trade deals with Australia and others
We heard Minister Hands outline how the UK Government will secure our high food and farming standards in this and any future trade deal.
The UK Government will not compromise on our high food safety, animal welfare and environment standards in this or any other trade agreement.
There were concerns about the potential for cheaper agricultural products to flood the UK market, but Minister Hands explained that this is not forecast to happen and indeed Australia does not use its existing tariff free quota for lamb.
The deal with Australia is a springboard to our joining the rapidly growing Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
CPTPP is a free trade area of 11 trans-Pacific nations with a combined GDP of £9 trillion.
And it is among these nations that some of the highest rates of economic growth is expected in the coming years – with a growing middle class market and increasing demand for precisely the kind of high quality food and drink for which Scotland is world-famous.
Despite the scaremongering from the SNP and others, this deal represents a real opportunity for our food and drink producers.
It is also interesting to note that the SNP have never supported ANY free trade agreement negotiated by the UK or even the EU.
In fact, they didn’t even support the free trade agreement we negotiated with the EU.
I was please that the UK Government has decided to end the import of seed potatoes from the EU
The UK had allowed a 6-month grace period for EU seed potato imports and had applied for equivalence which would allow British exports of seed potato to restart.
However, despite repeated scientific evidence that British grown seed potatoes are up to the required standard, the EU have continued to deny this and so the Government have taken the welcome and supportive step to not renew this grace period.
This is welcome news for the Scottish seed potato sector who have been lobbying for this decision to be made.
I was grateful to all the staff at the vaccination centre I attended recently to receive my second vaccine a couple of weeks ago.
As more and more restrictions are hopefully lifted in the coming weeks, it is important that we continue to stay alert to continued presence of the coronavirus while we continue to roll-out the world-beating UK Vaccine programme.
It cannot be underestimated how important it is for as many of the population as possible to be inoculated so we can protect ourselves and each other by breaking the link between infections, hospitalisations, and deaths.
Despite Nicola Sturgeons claim’s last summer that the virus would be ‘eradicated’ in Scotland, it is clear that we are going to learn to live the ongoing presence of Covid-19, in a similar way as we have become accustomed to the flu.
I strongly encourage everyone to get their jab when invited.
There are several drop-in vaccine centres operating across the region and anyone over 18 can now self-register online to receive your first vaccine. https://register.vacs.nhs.scot/