Rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing has called for the protection of access to markets for Scottish producers, with warnings that leaving the European Single Market would be “disastrous” for Scotland’s farming and food sectors.
Ewing said: “The EU is Scotland’s biggest overseas regional food and drink market, with exports of food and drink work £2bn in 2015. We simply can’t ignore the disastrous impact that leaving the Single Market, and the 500 million people within it, could have on our food and drink sector.”
Current figures show food exports have increased more than 50%, employing 36,000 people, 19% of the Scottish manufacturing workforce.Food and drink manufacturing accounts for around 45% of Scotland’s full supply chain turnover and the number of people it employs, with over 800 businesses in the sector.
Ewing continued: “A ‘Hard Brexit’ would be devastating for Scottish agriculture and the many food companies which rely on Scottish produce. Potentially, they face both high tariffs of up to 50% and loss of subsidy support. It may also put at risk the common regulatory frameworks which help maintain food safety, animal and plant health standards and guarantee access to EU markets and many other countries.”
Ewing expressed concerns about the impact on the labour market with almost 40% of people employed in the sector being foreign-born, with the majority from within the EU, saying; “Unlike the UK Government, we value the contribution that non-UK EU nationals bring to our economy and society, contributing to sustainable economic growth, mitigating the effects of demographic change and enriching our culture and communities.”