The resolution recognised the consequences of a recent trade deal with New Zealand is likely to have on rural communities across Scotland as it undermines the livelihoods of
those who work tirelessly to produce a world-renowned product.
The resolution was passed overwhelmingly by 571 votes in favour to 18 that were opposed.
It was brought forward by South Scotland MSP Emma Harper (below) who said: “There is no trade deal that makes up for what Brexit has taken away from us. We’ve had access to a market on our doorstep, 500 million people, our closest neighbours, our 27 closest countries with tariff-free access.
“Experts have already dismissed this New Zealand trade agreement as minuscule, saying that it merely serves as something the UK Government are doing to just strike trade deals in a desperate attempt to claim as another Brexit win.
“Scottish farmers produce livestock with some of the best animal welfare standards in the world and we should support them.”
She added that overall New Zealand has good welfare practices, but said: ”New Zealand is one of only 27 countries in the world that still uses the hormone ractopamine in pig-rearing. Ractopamine makes the pig leaner and it has been banned in the UK since 1999. Antibiotic resistance is also a concern. Careful use of antibiotics, not blanket use is best.
“I want to make it clear that I am not against free trade deals but I recognise there are ways of liberalising trade policy that do not sell out our Scottish food and drink sector.
“This New Zealand trade deal was an opportunity for the UK to show leadership and to advance animal welfare practises but the UK Government never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. All they care about is the appearance of a Brexit win.”
She also read the words of NFU Scotland (National Farmers Union of Scotland) president Martin Kennedy about the UK’s pursuit of free trade agreements.
He said: “The cumulative impact of these deals will have a major impact on UK farming if handled badly.
“It may become impossible for some of our family farming businesses to compete.”
At the time of the trade deal with Australia Kennedy also said that “without proper consultation and scrutiny, it sets a dangerous precedent for other FTAs [free trade agreements], such as with Canada, Mexico and the US”.
Harper added that Scotland’s farmers never stopped during coronavirus lockdowns and continued to supply shops with food.
“Shop local was and should continue to be, the words that trip off our tongues. But how can we encourage folk to shop local when they see cheaper price tags that undercut the Scottish produced beef and lamb that has better welfare practices as part of the rearing of livestock?”
Harper added that the “hidden cost” of this trade deal is the miles that food coming from New Zealand – which is around 11,000 miles away – has to travel.
She said: “The amount of marine fuel required for the 11,000 food miles is calculated at 2,520,000 gallons for each shipping journey. That is 63,000 gallons of marine fuel each day for one cargo ship and one journey.”
The motion was seconded by Argyll and Bute MSP Jenni Minto (above) who said that Scots “shouldn’t be surprised” that concerns about trade deals have been ignored by the Tories.
Adding that the Australia deal puts “consumers above producers”, Minto said: “With one quick signature, these tariff-free trade deals could lead to potentially hugely damaging consequences for Scotland’s most remote and rural communities.
“One farmer said to me in June … ‘we don’t know what the future will hold, but cheaper produce will arrive in our supermarkets and sadly, though people want to shop local, they shop with their money, not their hearts’.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the top three goods exported from the UK to NZ last year were cars, specialised machinery and medicinal/pharmaceutical products.
The top products coming from NZ to UK were beverages followed by meat and meat preparations, accounting for more than 55% of the country’s exports to the UK.
With the Australia trade deal, whisky was lauded as the big winner for Scottish producers, with New Zealand it is gin, but Minto said that both of these products have “nuisance tariffs” that have no protective effect.