A FOUR-NATIONS fightback against Boris Johnson’s proposed trade deal with Australia is to be hammered out next week.

Stakeholders in the food industry are to meet on June 7 to discuss a joint strategy against the deal which is predicted to have a devastating effect, particularly in Scotland and Wales.

“It is a four-nations approach, which is quite right because if it is only Scotland that is protesting, we get told it is a Trojan Horse for Scottish nationalism, which is nonsense. This is about not having chlorinated chicken and not having hormones in beef and asthma drugs in your pork,” said Alec Ross, whose Stranraer-based business Biocell Agri supplies feed for livestock.

He warned that if the deal went ahead it would not only be a disaster for the Scottish food industry but also for the public, who would be prey to poor quality food that is possibly even harmful to health.

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It is thought the Tory government is driving through the deal in order to pave the way for a similar deal with the US which, it is predicted, would result in the UK market being flooded with cheap food produced under poor welfare and health standards.

“There are some unbelievable statistics of how many people in America get food poisoning every year. It is tens of millions of people and that is purely because there are not the rigid safeguards that we have,” said Ross, who was part of Farming For Yes in the 2014 Scottish independence campaign. He pointed out that Tory minister Michael Gove (pictured) had previously given assurances that there would be no reduction in food and welfare standards in the event of any deal and that this was an absolute “red line”.

“Now it looks like Westminster appears to be entirely comfortable with a tariff-free deal with a country whose standards – chemicals harmful to bees and aquatic ecosystems, the use of paraquat, no review period whatsoever for pesticides – fall way short of our own,” said Ross. “We can only conclude that, like herd immunity, the managed decline of domestic food production wasn’t just some hare-brained fringe policy. It was the policy. And it seems it still is.”

He added that importing food from as far away as Australia contradicted Johnson’s recent commitment to making the UK “greener”.

Ross said Scotland and Wales would be most adversely affected because of the high proportion of sheep in both countries and also because of the relative importance of food and drink to GDP.

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“In 2014, Farming For Yes showed food and drink in Scotland was six times more important to the Scottish GDP than in England and you were three or four times more likely to be working in agriculture if you lived here, as opposed to the rest of the UK, so farming is very important to the economy,” said Ross.

“The paradox is that we are trying to increase the turnover of food and drink in Scotland from £18 billion to £30bn by 2030 and trade deals without food and welfare standards robustly in place make that much more difficult.”

Ruth Watson, founder of the Keep Scotland The Brand campaign, said Brexit deals like the Australian one directly threatened the future of the country’s rural communities as well as animal welfare and food quality standards.

“It is not just about the economy, it is about food security too,” she said. “Acquiescence with a bonfire of food standards, environmental standards and animal welfare spells disaster.”

Last week Alba MP Kenny MacAskill compared the deal with the Highland Clearances because it would put so many hill farmers and crofters out of business.