A witness panel giving evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee this week contended that any future trade deals the UK Government seeks to pursue must only be secured with the consent of the Scottish Government.
The Committee took evidence from witnesses on the possible impact of the UK’s Trade Bill on Scotland. The Bill would grant the UK Government sweeping powers to negotiate future trade deals on Scotland’s behalf- including in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as agriculture. But at present the Bill contains no provisions for allowing parliamentary scrutiny by Holyrood.
According to Professor Aileen McHarg of Strathclyde University the Bill in its current draft contains ‘no requirement for UK Ministers to gain devolved consent before exercising regulation making powers in devolved areas.’
Asked by SNP MSP Ash Denham if the UK Government should be able to proceed with trade deals that the Scottish Government didn’t agree to, Graham Kemp, from St Andrews TTIP Action Group, answered,
“The answer is no. They shouldn’t be able to proceed. We have been told we are an equal partner to the union and should be treated as such.”
Liz Murray, from Global Justice Now, commented,
“The Scottish Parliament should be able to give its consent or withhold its consent particularly on areas of a trade deal that impact on devolved areas.”
There remains concerns within the Scottish business community that future trade deals negotiated by the UK Government may will not protect Scottish produced currently categorised as Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication produce.
There are also worries about the potential impact of compromised food standards, with chlorinated chicken and hormone injected beef from the US introduced into the Scottish food market.
The Scottish food and drinks industry alone is worth £14 billion pounds a year.
Commenting, SNP MSP Ash Denham said,
“The Tories think they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it- despite having no mandate here whatsoever.
“The consensus is clear- Scotland needs to be an equal voice at the negotiating table.
“The food and drink sector with all our wonderful and high quality Scottish produce is very important to the Scottish economy, it is crucial that the Scottish Government is able to defend Scottish interests when it comes to the economy and this means being able to influence post-Brexit deals.
“We take our responsibility to protect the incredible food and drink produced in Scotland very seriously so we must not allow the UK Government who don’t see this as a high priority for the UK to sell out Scottish farmers and producers.’