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Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing could face a hostile reception when he visits Arran on Monday.
He is due to address an open meeting in Whiting Bay, at the invitation of Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson, to discuss the work he and the the SNP government is doing to help Arran and other island communities.
But he is likely to face opponents of the proposed fish farm by the Scottish Salmon Company of the north-east of island, which has already stirred up a lot of controversy.
In a statement to supporters the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) said: ‘In our opinion with Fergus Ewing supporting the open cage salmon farming industry to double its ‘contribution’ to the Scottish economy by 2030 he is damaging the hard fought reputation of Scotland’s, and therefore Arran’s, farmers and agriculturalists as providers and exporters of high quality, high value food and drink.’
However, elsewhere there is concern that Arran’s thriving food and drink sector has been put at risk by the looming threat of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, which would see crippling tariffs placed on our exports to the European Union.
Working within the European Union’s policy and trading framework for over 40 years, farming and processing industries have structured themselves regarding imports and exports accordingly. The export tariff schedule that would be implemented in the event of a ‘no deal’, as outlined in the graphic below, suggests that different agricultural sectors would be treated asymmetrically in the imposition of tariffs, risking the serious prospect of Scottish food being priced out of the market whilst food produced to lower standards is imported from third countries.
As a member of the EU, Scotland has enjoyed tariff-free and frictionless trade with its European partners and this has facilitated the exponential growth of food and drink exports in recent years. In 2018, Scotland’s food and drink exports were worth £6.3 billion, a 4.9 per cent increase since 2018. Food exports have grown by 125 per cent since 2007, largely thanks to increased trade with the EU, which is Scotland’s single biggest export trading partner by some distance.
Mr Gibson said: ‘Any Brexit scenario which undermines Scotland’s tariff-free agri-food trade with the European Union will seriously threaten the livelihoods of the 67,000 people currently employed in Scotland’s agricultural and related sectors, including those working on Arran.
‘Scottish farmers have endured three years of uncertainty about access to European markets for our beef, lamb and other produce, which is now being compounded by fears of our domestic market being flooded with food imports that do not meet the high welfare and safety standards of Scottish farmers. The devastating impact of Brexit on our food sector and the rural economy must be avoided.
‘Given these concerns, I have invited my colleague Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity to Arran to meet with local farmers and others who make their livelihood in the rural economy.
‘Mr Ewing will visit Arran on Monday 17 June for a series of meetings. The first will be an open meeting in Whiting Bay village hall from 11.15am to 12.30pm. Mr Ewing will set the scene for around 15 minutes, with a further hour to take questions from the floor. Please come along if you wish to hear what Mr Ewing has to say and ask him questions about the work he and the SNP Government are doing on behalf of Arran and other rural and island communities.’
Fergus Ewing (library pic in D-Photos)
A map showing the site of the proposed fish farm at Millstone Point. NO_B24fish02