THE founder of Keep Scotland the Brand told MPs yesterday that Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) would be crucial for the Scottish economy after Brexit.

Under hostile questioning from a Conservative MP, Ruth Watson also told the Scottish Affairs Committee that the campaign was not party political and was about preserving communities.

In reply to questions by Scottish Tory MP John Lamont, she said: “Scotland IS the brand.

“For many years I lived in Asia and if you go to an exclusive supermarket, they sell Scottish water and beside it they have a sign saying ‘filtered for 10,000 years by Scots granite’.

“People would buy that because Scotland’s brand evokes cleanliness and mountains. People will buy that premium product because they like the idea of Jamie from Outlander skipping over their table.”

Committee members chuckled in agreement before Lamont said: “You say you are non political, it’s not about Scottish nationalism, but your Facebook and website admits that Keep Scotland the Brand grew out of Yes Kirriemuir and Yes Forfar, so is keeping Scotland the Brand just a political movement dressed up as something else?”

Watson replied: “No, absolutely not. The reason I put that it grew out of Yes Kirriemuir and Yes Angus is that I believe in transparency. If I was to try and hide that then people would say it’s just a front.

“What is not a front is the fact that whatever you do, whenever you sit down to eat is the one thing that unites us all. I have made a point of engaging with as many people in my communities as possible.”

Mentioning Watson’s tweets and re-tweets about what the National has called Union Jackery – a label the Tories now use – Lamont continued: “Is this really about anti-British or is it about promoting Scotland?

Watson said: “At the top of my Twitter account and the Facebook page for Keep Scotland the Brand it says this is a positive campaign for clear provenance. I diligently make a point about this not being a boycott campaign.”

Lamont said her credibility had been diminished but Watson replied that the MP had “an agenda” with his remarks.

Earlier, Law Society of Scotland expert Lindesay Low described how PGI status comes about – an application is submitted by the UK Government to the European Commission, and when PGI is granted it can be enforced through the civil courts. All the witnesses agreed that PGI status was vital for producers in Scottish communities.

Dr Gail Evans, expert on geographical indications at Queen Mary University, London, said there is one chief advantage of the GI and that is “over land ownership,” adding: “The GI, unlike the trademark, is not alienable, lawyer talk for transferable.

“The GI operates on the land, it is a collective form of intellectual property belonging to the producers in that area, but if I as a farmer move out of that area then I have no right to use that protection.

“It gives the local community security over land against big global conglomerates moving in.

“It is highly valued. I have been to the Shetlands and spoken to people there and they do value the GIs they have and they would like geographical indications to be extended to non-agricultural products such as Shetland woollen knitted clothing – there is an EU proposal to do that.”

East Renfrewshire Tory MP Paul Masterton said the EU Withdrawal Bill would protect PGI status in third countries. Lindesay Low replied: “If that is what happens that would be good for Scottish indications, but there is a degree of uncertainty.”

Dr Evans pointed out that problems might arise with PGI for cheese and added “American food producers are dead against the GI style of cheese protection”.