LAST Sunday, this newspaper published an article headlined “Brexit leads to ‘catastrophic failure’ warning for Scotland as crops left to rot”. In it, the managing director of the East of Scotland Growers co-operative claimed that one-third of the Scottish growth of brassicas – vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower – would not be harvested this year because of the shortage of seasonal agricultural labour.

He predicted that not only would vegetables cost more, but that there would be reduced planting, leading to sustained higher prices.

The piece also mentioned Geographic Indicators, with Ruth Watson of Scotland the Brand pointing out that iconic Scottish food products, stripped of this important EU recognition, were not now getting the same level of protection as they did before Brexit.

A third food and drink issue featured too, with a shortage of supplies reported in Co-op stores on Mull, Islay and elsewhere.

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It was and is a democratic outrage that Brexit has been imposed on Scotland, given that we never voted for it. But what is also unforgivable is the raft of utterly dishonest claims made during and after the 2016 referendum, not just by the usual Brexit suspects in London but by voices closer to home.

Tom Harris (below) – a former Labour MP now comfortably working in the Scotland Office alongside hard-right Tories – wrote a Reform Scotland blog in June 2016 inwhich he claimed that Scotland could be “so much better off” outside the EU and that “whether we’re an EU member or not, Britain will still be a member of the European free trade zone, which stretches from Iceland to Russia”.

The National:

He also asserted that Brexit would give “more powers for the Scottish Parliament” (agriculture, fishing, and important environmental and social policy powers currently wielded by Brussels), a budget boost of £1.5 billion a year and control over our borders “while letting Scotland argue for a Scottish work visa programme”. Of course, anyone who disagreed with all that at the time was accused of crying wolf. But there were wolves about, and many entirely truthful warnings about them.

In the summer of 2017 I made my first visit as Scotland’s Brexit minister to fruit farms in Angus and heard local farmers’ concerns about labour shortages. I subsequently brought it up more than once during discussions at the UK’s Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations. In fact, so clear was the danger that in October of that year the then Tory MP for the area, Kirstene Hair, took a delegation of growers to see Michael Gove in London in order to seek an assurance that incoming labour would not be affected.

Moreover, these warnings were repeated on many occasions but completely ignored. As a result farmers are now suffering, prices are rising and the Tories – and they alone – are to blame.

The issue of Geographic Indicators was also repeatedly raised. For example, on August 2, 2018, Fergus Ewing, then rural affairs secretary, drew attention to the urgency and importance of the matter in a well-reported press release.

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The UK Government, of course, denied there was any problem, saying: “We will establish specific GI schemes to protect UK GIs in the future. This means favourites such as Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and lamb, Scottish wild salmon ... will continue to be safeguarded in the UK when we leave the EU.”

That was another lie.

Empty shelves were also predicted. In fact, in June 2018 a leaked report from the UK Government’s own Inter Ministerial Group on Preparedness indicated that in the event of a no-deal – and the final 2020 deal had many no-deal characteristics – there would be supply chain problems, which in the most extreme circumstances would mean that “the supermarkets of Cornwall and Scotland will run out of food”.

The end of a supply chain is its most vulnerable point. The Co-op seems to have particular problems (it was also badly affected at the start of the first Covid lockdown) but almost all supermarkets have experienced some shortages, just as was predicted at the JMC and at other UK/devolved government Ministerial meetings.

The most likely anticipated cause was constraints at the short straits crossing caused by increased customs formalities, but the shortage of lorry drivers has added to the problem. I could go on. A Scottish Government consultation in 2019 anticipated an erosion of environmental practice and protections despite the fact that in March 2017, in a letter to me, David Davis said categorically that “both governments agree that UK exit should not lead to an erosion of environmental standards”.

Of course, the UK Government’s word is no longer its bond and it is now permitting sewage to be discharged by privatised water companies.

The former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, once observed with regard to the 2007 financial crash that he had “made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders”.

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In other words, he never expected individual greed to become so overwhelming that bankers would destroy their own institutions just to make themselves more money.

Brexit presents the same conundrum. It is hard to believe that any democratic Government could be so fixated on personal ambition and a backward-looking, nostalgia-driven, self-harming ideological fantasy that, in the face of repeated, well-sourced and detailed warnings, it would willingly destroy the lifestyles and life chances of its own citizens in pursuit of it.

But that is what Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Gove and all the others – including “useful idiots” such as Harris, to quote Lenin – have done.

There will one day be a reckoning. The facts are very clear and those responsible will be judged by them.

Yet long before that Scotland will have shaken the corrupt dust of the current UK from our feet, a process that can only have been accelerated, I believe, by the week’s revolting events at Westminster.