THE Tory International Trade Secretary has claimed Scottish businesses are “excited” about Brexit during a visit to Glasgow.
Some 62% of Scots backed Remain in 2016 – the figure was even higher in Glasgow at 66%.
Liz Truss was told she should use her trip north of the Border to apologise to the businesses facing the consequences of Brexit.
The SNP’s shadow international trade spokesperson, Drew Hendry, pointed out that many firms here are “paying a heavy price due to her government’s extreme Brexit policy”.
“Time and time again the interests of Scotland’s businesses – including Scottish farmers and crofters under the Australia trade deal – have been completely sidelined by the Tory government,” he said.
Scotland’s fishing industry has been particularly badly hit by the new post-Brexit regulations, with the Scottish Salmond Producers Organisation warning they face a constantly changing “bureaucratic morass” that could severely damage the sector.
Between 2016 and 2019 three-quarters of Scottish seafood exports went to the EU – but now the UK has left the single market there are far more barriers to getting produce to the continent. One delivery can require up to 80 pages worth of documentation, traders have said.
Truss’s visit also comes as Scots are increasingly noticing gaps in the fresh fruit and vegetables available in supermarkets, with the UK struggling against a post-Brexit shortage of HGV drivers to deliver produce.
Asked whether she would apologise to the businesses facing financial difficulty and even closure due to Brexit, Truss told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “I’ve been meeting lots of businesses in Scotland and what I’ve heard is they are very excited about the opportunities of trading right across the world, for example we’ve just seen the elimination of tariffs on whisky as a result of us resolving the Airbus-Boeing dispute. That is meaning that whisky distillers in Scotland now have more opportunities into the Untied States market.”
She told interviewer Gary Robertson that she was not meeting with fishermen but had done so on prior trips to Scotland. Instead, she insisted the FinTech firms she’d met in Edinburgh will have “lots of opportunities” in the future.
Asked if she had spoken to any traders who disagree with Brexit, Truss said: “I’m not relitigating the battles of the past, what I’m doing is focused on the future opportunities for Scottish business.”
Robertson pointed out that Brexiteers, like Truss, had claimed there would be sunny uplands but after leaving the EU many businesses have found they’re struggling.
“What I’ve been talking about is the opportunities there are in the future and what we want to do is engage with Scottish businesses to make sure the trade deals we’re negotiating reflect their interests, that we’re attracting new investment into Scotland,” she responded.
“People in the UK made the decision to leave the European Union in 2016. My job is to secure the trade deals with the rest of the world that are going to improve opportunities here in Scotland. It’s not to relitigate a referendum from 2016.”