THE Tories have said it's "petty" for the Scottish Government to complain about Scotch Beef being sold as British. 

They accused the one of Nicola Sturgeon's key aides of wasting time by "complaining about flags on meat".

But campaigners from Keep Scotland The Brand hit back at the party, accusing them of not being wholly behind Scottish farmers.  

The row came after Tory rural spokesman, Oliver Mundell, criticised Kate Higgins for questioning why the supermarket was selling Scotch Beef as British.

According to correspondence released under freedom of information legislation, the special adviser to the First Minister on Rural Economy and Connectivity raised her concerns with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). 

READ MORE: WATCH: Nicola Sturgeon tears into Oliver Mundell over travel restriction claim

The email exchange shows that someone from QMS then spoke to Marks & Spencer who "committed to review the fresh meat labelling as there were some products they identified that should be packaged as Scotch but were labelled as British."

The store said they thought Union flag labelling "may be due to a hangover from the initial Covid panic buying period when much of the range was labelled as British to ensure maximum volumes were processed."

Mundell was apoplectic: “In the middle of a pandemic, it’s jaw-dropping that a key SNP Government adviser is furiously investigating how the Union flag ended up on a packet of meat.

“It’s an embarrassing reveal of the priorities of the SNP Government. The big issue facing Scotland today is not the labelling of beef in Marks & Spencer.

“We are fighting a pandemic and 100,000 jobs are at risk. What will the Scottish public make of one of the First Minister’s key advisers complaining about flags on meat?”

He added: “I’m incredibly proud of Scottish produce but this is petty, small and trivial. The First Minister should explain if her government endorses this total waste of time.”

Ruth Watson from Keep Scotland The Brand hit out at the Tory. She said: “It is jaw-dropping that in a time we are facing potential food shortages because of Covid-19 and Brexit there are any Scottish politicians who are not wholly behind Scotland's farmers, crofters, and smallholders. 

“Scotland's farmers, butchers, and vets work  hard to ensure the 'Scotch' label is a hallmark of full-life quality, recognised and valued as a premium product both at home and around the world.

“Generic labelling undermines the decades of work our farmers have put in to making Scotland's name one of the most prestigious there is - our 'Scotch' brand was the first of its kind in the world.

“Scotland's farm assured standards give full-life traceability with animal welfare enshrined in Scots law, unlike lesser schemes elsewhere and unlike England which has removed animal welfare protections from their statute books. Now the Agriculture Bill and the Internal Market Bill going through Westminster will remove Scotland's right to keep our high the food and animal welfare standards.

“Clear food labels give customers confidence. Local provenance is good for global sales. Research repeatedly shows Scotland's name is good for business. Our food and drink sector is of huge importance to Scotland's economy. Why would anyone think it okay to trash a brand which adds significant value to the price farmers get? I find it jaw-dropping Mr Mundell is not taking a stand in support of our agricultural sector in general and his constituents in particular."

A spokesperson for Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotch Beef is an iconic product which enjoys protected named status, which should always be safeguarded and promoted – particularly during the pandemic, which has hit our food and drink sector hard.

“The Scottish Government makes no apologies for promoting our world-class produce at a time when it is under threat like never before due to the reckless Brexit policies pursued by the Tories – who have disgracefully just voted to water down food standards – and championed by the likes of Oliver Mundell.”