AN SNP MP was taken aback in the Commons this morning as a new UK Government trade minister failed to understand the “basics” of devolution.

Drew Hendry was asking junior exports minister Mike Freer about Brexit’s impact on Scottish exports, and suggested the International Trade department offer compensation to badly hit businesses.

The SNP’s international trade spokesperson quoted a report from the HMRC revealing that by the end of June 2021, Scottish exports were down 14% compared to the previous year – the highest decrease in the UK.

Hendry has been pushing the Westminster government to answer for that “catastrophic economic vandalism”.

Referring to the news of a New Zealand trade deal being reached, Hendry told the House: “All the tiny free trade agreements the Government are willing to sell out for cannot move the dial on this shortfall, so will the UK Government apologise to Scottish businesses and offer compensation?”

In response, the Conservative MP appeared to suggest that the Scottish Government’s exports department should sort out the problem.

“This is week six in the role so I will admit being rather new to some of the challenges,” he told Hendry. “I did think that actually the Scottish Government has their own exports department.”

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Facing heckles, Freer went on: “Hang on a minute, hang on a minute. My understanding in part of my briefing in one of my roles is to work closely with the Scottish Government on their exports policies.”

He suggested Hendry should let him work with the “administration”, meaning Holyrood, to “boost our co-operation and boost exports from Scotland”.

“I will accept his criticism, but allow me some time to work with him and his colleagues so we can reverse that trend,” he continued.

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Hendry was taken aback – while Scotland does have a Trade Minister and policies on international trade and investment, international trade itself is a reserved area.

Hendry fired back at the minister. “Mr Speaker, I think anybody listening there will be a bit stunned…

“I will cut the right honourable member some slack for being new in the job but I think not knowing the basics is something we’ll need to polish up on. That answer is simply unacceptable to businesses pushed into crisis by this government.”

The SNP representative went on to say that the UK Government has failed to look for solutions to Brexit trading barriers – inflicting “serious and lasting harm” on Scotland. He urged him to hold immediate talks across parties to find “new measures and solutions”.

Freer said food and drink across the “whole of the UK” is a priority for his department, adding he would work on the challenges “we both share”.

He continued: “I also want him to recognise the opportunities that our new trade deals will offer and when we deliver on those trade opportunities I hope he will give credit to the UK Government.”

This morning’s exchange comes as the Scottish Government complained it had been frozen out of negotiations on the New Zealand trade deal.

The agreement is set to cut tariffs on exports between the UK and New Zealand, making dairy and red meat easier to import to Britain.

UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan insisted the agreement was “win-win”. She told British farmers they should not be worried by the deal and said it was a “possibility” they could start sending lamb to New Zealand.

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Farmers, the SNP and ministers have brought up financial and environmental concerns over the deal. The Scottish Government said it wasn’t consulted on the agreement at all during the 16-month negotiation process.

A spokesperson for the Government said: "Any deal with New Zealand will not remotely offset the damage to our economy caused by Brexit.

"Even the UK Government's own scoping assessment published last year said a deal with New Zealand would result in zero increase in GDP and that the agriculture and semi-processed food sectors would be likely to lose out.

"Aside from the economic arguments of seeking new deals with markets thousands of miles away while putting up barriers to trade with our European neighbours, the climate change implications of long-distance trade must also be considered."