The National:

THERE is a power struggle happening in Whitehall which could see many in Scotland’s traditional farming communities wiped from our landscape.

The Financial Times broke the story of a tussle between the Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, and Environment Secretary, George Eustice.

Michael Gove’s name appears in the frame, a passing wraith as he ploughs a furrow aimed at No 10. There are many within the food and drink sector who shake their heads in disbelief that the fate of one of our most crucial industries could be in the hands of three people so apparently ill-suited for the task, yet here we are.

Liz Truss is desperate for a deal to be done with Australia and New Zealand. Up until now, her trade mission has delivered little, much-vaunted trade deals being cut-and-paste versions we had with the EU with some of the perks shaved off.

READ MORE: Australia's zero-tariff demand to UK a 'huge threat' to Scottish agriculture

There is much about international trade which is complicated, a mix of Jenga and Risk with shadowy figures changing gameplay. For Scotland, with more than half of our farms still owned and run as family businesses, the stakes could not be higher.

According to Scotland Food and Drink, the industry is worth £15 billion to our economy and is Scotland’s largest employer. The impact on our communities is hard to quantify – how do you put a price tag on the intangible worth of a nation? Scotland IS the brand, but a reputation is hard earned and easy lost. The very real fear is that lower quality imports of food and drink will put our farmers – working to higher standards – out of business, while trashing our brand, damaging our markets, and making us reliant on low-quality imports with resulting impacts on our health and health services, as evidenced by outcomes in the USA.

The National:

But why would Liz Truss (above) agree to a deal which undermines our farmers, destroys our reputation as a nation, and sees our rural communities turned into glorified holiday resorts for trade only thought likely to boost the UK’s GDP by 0.02% over 10 years? One answer might lie in the Brexiter dream: an agreement with the USA.  

If the UK diverges from the EU and its high standards, with an Australia/New Zealand deal, the complexities of the border in the Irish Sea and all the dangers that might pose to the Good Friday Agreement would be thrown into the pot without directly involving President Biden.

READ MORE: Why Tories' post-Brexit Australian trade deal is grave threat to Scottish farms

The Agriculture Bill and the Internal Market Bill passed through Westminster last year. Part of their purpose was to override Scotland’s devolved rights in agriculture. We could be about to see this play out across our landscape, in the safety of the food we eat, impacting on Scotland’s internationally respected name for quality.

The Trade and Agricultural Commission is an independent advisory board set up to advise Boris Johnson’s Government. The introduction to their report says, “We now embark on a new phase, as an independent trading nation.” The people of Scotland could do well to reflect upon that statement, and what we want it to mean.

Ruth Watson is the founder of the ‘Keep Scotland the Brand’ campaign