The SNP has warned that Scottish farmers and crofters are being left “high and dry” because of the UK Government’s failure to deliver its promise of a statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission.
Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, questioned the lack of progress on the measure, amid ongoing concerns over the impact of post-Brexit trade deals.
Industry leaders were alarmed by the UK’s proposed agreement with Australia, despite ministers promising to protect farmers by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years.
Many claim there was a lack of consultation and scrutiny, and fear it has set a dangerous precedent for deals with other major farming and food producing countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and the USA.
In November last year, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced she would be extending the Trade and Agriculture Commission, and placing it on a full statutory footing, to give farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy.
The commission had been initially launched for a six-month period in July last year to bring together voices from across the sector and report back to inform top-level trade policy and negotiations.
But Mr Fairlie, a former sheep farmer, said it was currently “nowhere to be seen”.
The SNP MSP said: “Farmers and crofters are being left high and dry by the Tories as they continue to fail to protect Scotland’s farmers from being undercut by trade deals.
“This is a race to the bottom on food standards and Scotland’s farming industry is the loser.
“There are real fears within the agriculture sector in Scotland that the Australian deal will form a blueprint for future deals with America and other countries, posing further threats to the very future of our vital, world-class farming and crofting sector.
“Despite the Tories promising to set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission to scrutinise these deals it is nowhere to be seen and the door is still wide open for deals to undercut the farming sector with lower standards and prices.
“Our Scottish Parliament did not have the opportunity to scrutinise the Australian trade deal, with our concerns being ignored by the Tories.”
Despite the Tories promising to set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission to scrutinise these deals it is nowhere to be seen and the door is still wide open for deals to undercut the farming sector with lower standards and prices.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The government will publish its response to the commission’s report in due course.
“The government is grateful to the Trade and Agriculture Commission for their comprehensive report and is considering their recommendations carefully.
“Our response will set out how we aim to meet the immense opportunities the UK now has as an independent trading nation, while also upholding the government’s commitment to maintaining and protecting the UK’s high agri-food safety standards.”