SNP South Scotland MSP Emma Harper, last week (Tuesday 8 June) in the Scottish Parliament, spoke in a debate on the trade deal which has just been agreed between the UK and Australia and the impact that this could, and indeed will, have on Scottish agriculture, food and standards of animal welfare.

During the debate, the South Scotland MSP took the opportunity to highlight that Scotland, thanks to the European Union, currently has some of the highest standards of animal welfare and food production in the world. Ms Harper also pointed out, following our exit from the EU and with UK Government’s cavalier attitude towards entering in to free trade agreements with non-EU nations, that Scotland may be forced to accept food and agricultural products which have been produced with lower standards of animal welfare, products produced with hormones and chemicals which are currently banned in the UK and which will undercut our Scottish producers and farmers.

During her contribution, Ms Harper echoed the comments of the Scottish National Farmers Union by agreeing that this free trade deal with Australia opens the door to agreements with other nations, such as the USA, who have lower standards of animal welfare.

However, during the debate, Conservative MSP Finlay Carson intervened on Ms Harper by asking her to point to where, in the agreement, it says that agriculture, including standards of animal welfare, will be included.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“In the UK Government’s desperate pursuit of trade deals, they have shown that they are happy to cast Scottish agriculture to one side and to undercut our producers through allowing agricultural products to be brought into the UK from Australia and indeed many other countries. These products do not conform to the same standards of animal welfare and of food safety as our Scottish produce and do not meet the same EU rules as we currently follow here in Scotland. Indeed, many of these products, particularly from the US, use hormones which are illegal across Europe.

“During the debate, Mr Carson intervened on my speech to challenge me to show him where it stated that agricultural products would be part of this trade deal. In response, I would like to quote the Australian Government UK Free Trade Agreement Objectives Factsheet which states that the principal aim of the trade deal between the UK and Australia is to; ‘improve market access for Australian agricultural and industrial products.’ Here it is in black and white. Indeed. Liz Truss has agreed with this and it is replicated in the UK Government’s Principal Statement on the Trade Deal. I therefore ask Mr Carson to set the record straight and to admit that this trade deal includes agricultural products and will be detrimental to our Scottish farmers.

“Moreover, the Australia deal also has worrying implications for future trade deals. There is the very real danger that other larger economies will demand tariff-free exports to the UK, further undercutting Scottish farmers and lowering UK food standards with imports of hormone beef, chlorine chicken, ractopamine pork and other Frankenfoods.”

“I look forward to Mr Carson’s response.”