THE founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign has warned of the “catastrophe” facing agricultural, food and drink industries from a no-deal Brexit.

Ruth Watson was speaking after farming, food and drink industry leaders in Scotland penned an open letter to politicians of all parties to avoid a no-deal Brexit as it could cost their industries £2 billion.

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Watson said: “Now we know we are facing a catastrophe. Combined with what LibDem leader Vince Cable said about a third of all sheep having to be culled in the event of a no-deal Brexit, we can see the damage that is going to be done to industries which employ so many people in Scotland – it’s going to completely scupper them.”

In the open joint letter published yesterday, and reported here on the day before MPs vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal in the House of Commons, the chief executives from seven bodies representing the industry sectors say no-deal would cost their industries around £2bn in lost sales annually.

James Withers from Scotland Food & Drink, Scott Walker of NFU Scotland, Alan Clarke from Quality Meat Scotland, David Thomson from Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Julie Hesketh-Laird of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Alasdair Smith, Scottish Bakers and James Graham from the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society were the signatories to the letter.

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They state in the letter: “Whilst recognising there is no political consensus yet on a future trade relationship with Europe, the potentially catastrophic impact of not reaching any deal is clear.

“We are collectively hugely ambitious for the growth of our industry. However, even using the UK Government’s own projections, we estimate the cost of no deal to our industry would be at least £2bn in lost sales annually. That is on top of the short-term chaos resulting from transport delays and labour shortages.

“Our businesses are already bearing the cost of no deal, having to spend millions of pounds in time and investment to mitigate the potential disruption that will stem from the UK crashing out of the EU.

“We represent the people who farm Scotland’s land and seas, and food and drink businesses that are the nation’s largest onshore manufacturing industry, employing 120,000 people.

“The EU accounts for 70% of Scottish food exports annually and it is also the source of crucial inputs and supplies for our sector.

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“By Parliament rejecting a no-deal scenario, our industry effort can focus on shaping a future relationship with the EU that we can work with, not preparing for the fallout we can’t.

“There is no tolerance for no-deal as an option. It must be rejected now.”

Ruth Watson added: "The evidence is becoming clearer that the concerns voiced by campaigns such as Keep Scotland the Brand, and the many thousands of people who have expressed their fears about Brexit, are coming true.

“We should also all be concerned about what Brexit is going to do to food security and standards.”

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “Delivering the deal negotiated with the EU remains the Government’s top priority. The best way to avoid no deal is to back the PM’s deal.” 


Listen to The National editor Callum Baird and Paul Kavanagh discuss a possible escape route for Scotland