The Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing is, of course, quite right to demand that Scotland’s high-quality food brands continue to benefit from Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) after Scotland is wrenched from the EU against the will of the Scottish people. But he surely knows he’s wasting his time.
It will be argued that, by writing to UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa Villiers imploring her to “do more to attempt to secure this mutual recognition”. Fergus Ewing is throwing a spotlight on the matter of protecting ‘Scotland The Brand’ – a bit of a political hot Ayrshire Early for the British government. But it might better be argued that he would be more effective in bringing this issue to the public’s attention were he to be more forthright in his comments.
Fergus Ewing is a politician. And he’s rather good at his job. So it is to be expected that he will speak the language of the professional politician. He will call a spade a form of digging implement and observe all the conventional courtesies in his communications with his counterpart in London. He will be ever mindful of the need to avoid rocking the Scottish Government’s boat He will be aware of the British media hyenas waiting to pounce on anything that can be spun into material for British Nationalist propaganda blanketing the country. He will choose his words with caution.
But does there not come a point where being open and honest with the people of Scotland takes precedence over avoiding giving offence to British Ministers or leaving nothing for the media hyenas to get their teeth into or even keeping the administration’s boat on an even keel? Does there not come a time when a spade must be called a spade and used to bury the conventional courtesies? Is that time not upon us?
The reality is that, in Brexit Britain, Scotland’s iconic food brands will be protected in a reciprocal arrangement with the EU only to the extent that this does not become an impediment to any future trade deal with the US. The price of such a deal will inevitably be lower food standards and less regulation. PGI protection is anathema to US corporations and the British government will be in no position to resist demands that they be removed.
The food and drink industry is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy. It is worth around £14 billion a year and accounts for one in five manufacturing jobs. Scotland has 18,850 food and drink businesses, which employ around 115,400 people. (Scottish Government) It is also a major growth sector and depends heavily on high-quality, high-value products. Branding is crucial. Scotland’s iconic food and drink brands, already being eroded by pestilent union-jackery, are about to be sacrificed on the altar of British Nationalist ideology.
So why doesn’t Fergus Ewing just say so? We are a mere 91 days from the wrecking ball of Brexit hitting Scotland. Why are Scottish Government Ministers still pussyfooting around? Why aren’t they shouting about this lethal threat to Scotland’s vital food and drink industry? Is protocol really so important that it takes precedence over properly informing the public?
Hard times are ahead. So surely its time for some hard talking from our elected representatives.
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