Fife Council has become the first local authority in the UK to outline its formal opposition to a controversial free trade deal.
Councillors unanimously agreed to denounce the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which they believe will have a detrimental impact on local services, employment, suppliers and decision making.
Fife has previously rejected the similarly contentious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal, which has become the focus of anti-globalisation protests in the US and Europe amid suggestions it will undermine jobs and benefit multi-national companies.
Opponents to CETA claim the deal will provide a major opportunity for foreign energy and mining companies from Canada to step up fracking, and could also threaten local businesses by allowing Canadian companies to produce products such as Stornoway Black Pudding or Arbroath Smokies and label them as such.
With that in mind, Councillor Judy Hamilton described CETA as “TTIP by the back door” or “TTIP’s cousin”, and called on Fife to lay down a marker on the issue.
“This from us is a symbolic gesture, as, if CETA is implemented, it will be all or nothing, and there will be no CETA-free areas,” she said.
“But we are the politicians in Fife — and there is a growing movement of ordinary people and organisations who are calling on us to take a clear position of opposition to CETA.
“It is clear that CETA would allow companies to sue governments should they decide to restore any previously privatised services to public ownership.
“The NHS is up for grabs, along with water companies, railways, electric supply and generating companies.
“Market de-regulation will include the labour market — workers’ rights, collective bargaining and even health and safety could all be at risk
“It would allow a panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of democratically elected governments and destroy our legal protections.
“It is very unlikely that if there are any benefits, they would be seen by our own small and medium employers in Fife.”
Seconding her motion, newly-elected Councillor Mary Lockhart described CETA as a “star spangled TTIP wolf, disguised in a maple leaf coat”.
“CETA is bad for the future of public services, bad for the people we employ, bad for the people we represent and serve, and bad for Fife,” she stressed.
“This motion goes beyond principle.
“It is about our people. Our jobs. Our services. Our rights.
“It is about whose side we are on. The side of global markets? Or the side of local businesses? The side of transnational corporations? Or the side of the people?
“Fife Council is, always has been, and I believe always will be on the side of the people.”
Members of the St Andrews TTIP Action Group were in attendance at the council meeting, and spokesperson Jean Kemp said: “We are very proud of our council which has been brave enough to stand in clear opposition to this toxic trade deal, which threatens Scotland’s sovereignty, her health service and local government autonomy.”