CONSERVATIVE Trade Secretary Liz Truss today wrote an article in The Herald in which she claimed the SNP were aiming to "deny Scotland the benefits of the UK-Australia trade deal".

The top Tory spoke about the UK's prospects of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), adding: "The Scottish Government and SNP don’t want us to do any of this, of course, and would rather remain part of the European Union."

Here, SNP MSP and founder of Farmers for Yes Jim Farlie responds:

The National:

For Liz Truss and the UK Government to try to make this out as an SNP grievance clearly demonstrates they have no idea, and even less consideration, for the family farming sector in Scotland.

The Tories are trying to use tariff-free access to our domestic market in order to swing the trade deals they need to try and make Britain look like a global player, and if that means they sacrifice our farmers' food standards and environmental commitments in the process, it appears they are all prices worth paying.

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The reality is that tariff-free access for lamb and beef into the UK market could have massively damaging consequences for Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

As the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon, pointed out in a letter to Liz Truss: “At a time when UK agri-food producers are facing significantly greater barriers to trade with Europe – the sector’s largest export market – it would be incomprehensible for the UK Government to sign up to a trade deal that would facilitate mass imports of Australian agri-food produced to a lesser standard.”

Mairi made it quite clear – “a trade deal that liberalises tariffs for Australian farmers, to put it bluntly, will put UK farmers out of business".

Ms Truss tries to portray the opposition to this deal as something the SNP are out on a limb on. But it isn’t just the SNP, and it isn’t just in Scotland that very concerned voices are being raised in opposition.

It is not for nothing that Martin Kennedy (below), the president of the National Farmers Union in Scotland, has described this proposed deal as a “deep betrayal”.

The National: MARTIN KENNEDY on his Highland Perthshire grassland

The NFU in England warned ministers that they would struggle to compete if zero-tariffs trade on lamb or beef went ahead, and the RSPCA have warned that tariff-free access for Australia would betray the public, farmers, and the animals.

Professor L. Alan Winters, founding director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and professor of economics at the University of Sussex Business School, says: "The suggestion from supporters of a tariff-free arrangement that it will open up huge foreign markets for UK farmers is fanciful.”

His colleague, Dr Minako Morita-Jaeger, said: “In terms of the free trade opportunities a UK-Australia deal would open up for UK farmers, as has been suggested by some supporters of the no tariff deal with Australia, these would be fairly limited.”

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Scottish food can compete with produce from anywhere in the world in terms of quality, but price security, job security, food security and environmental security matter.

This deal destabilises all of those.

This deal isn’t just about the tariffs. There is a whole Pandora’s Box of issues around animal welfare, and questions over hormone-fed beef. How the UK Secretary of State for International Trade can describe a deal that does that as a “gold-standard agreement” is, frankly, beyond me.

Recent consumer research conducted by Which? concluded that 94% of respondents want food standards to be upheld in any Free Trade Agreements. But that doesn’t seem to be a factor in the UK’s thinking.

The National: Douglas Ross

The Tories, including Douglas Ross (above), voted down the Parish amendment to the UK agriculture bill, which would have made it illegal to import food stuffs produced to lower standards than those employed in this country.

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That was the opportunity to show their commitment to food standards, and they voted it down.

These issues could seriously destabilise the Scottish farming sector. This isn’t scaremongering and there is historical precedent.

Indeed, we need only look to the way in which the UK Government treated the fisheries sector to see how much store we should put in their pie in the sky promises.

We need to be encouraging consumers to think about sustainability, traceability and food miles, not lowering the bar on welfare standards and quality.

I am urging the UK Government, to listen to what the voices of the industry are urging them to do. Hear the genuine concern that is being voiced, and ensure that Scotland’s farmers have a future.