Highland Perthshire’s representatives in both parliaments are criticising the British governments move towards lowering trade tariffs on beef from Australia to the United Kingdom.
MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart deemed the proposal as ‘potentially ruinous’ for consumers and local producers.
Perthshire North MSP, John Swinney also joined Mr Wishart in criticising the plans calling the idea a ‘hammer blow’ for Perthshire farmers.
Speaking in the house of commons, Mr Wishart said: “These proposals are potentially ruinous for Scottish farming and the Prime Minister is setting a very dangerous precedent for future trade deals with other countries. This could mean a massive increase in lower quality produce, squeezing our local growers out of the market.
“Farmers and food producers are already suffering due to problems in attracting seasonal labour and this will be an added worry about what impact this could have on the market. We have already seen the Tory Government sell out the fishing industry and it seems like they are planning the same for our farmers.
“They must go back to the drawing board here and design trade deals which will protect our farming communities.”
Currently, tariffs on beef from outside the UK sit at 12%, which can add an extra £253 per 100kg, therefore limiting beef producers from outside the UK to offer prices lower than British producers.
However, the Department for International Trade said: “Any deal we sign with Australia will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards. We will continue to work with the industry, keeping them involved throughout the process and helping it capture the full benefits of trade.”
But Mr Swinney expressed his anger at a policy which he feels will damage local farmers.
He explained: “Any free trade deal that would allow tariff-free access to lamb and beef would be a hammer blow to local Perthshire farmers.
“Having already sold out Scottish fishing, it now looks like the Tories are gearing up to stab our farmers in the back.
“As a result of Brexit, the UK is being forced to negotiate from a position of weakness. It is becoming clearer by the day that leaving the European Union was an act of profound economic self-sabotage.
“For all the empty rhetoric about “love bombing” Scotland and “the strength of the Union”, once more the Tories are demonstrating that they will happily sell out Scotland if it means getting what they want.
‘The Prime Minister must confirm as a matter of urgency that he is not considering such a catastrophic deal. I also hope that Perthshire Tory politicians will, for once, put their constituents above party loyalty and speak out against this proposed deal.”
For local Aberfeldy famer, Martin Kennedy who is the president of NFU Scotland, it’s important that the deal offers a fair balance to local famers. He said: “We share the concerns expressed regarding the Australia FTA negotiations. Scotland’s beef, dairy, sheep and grain sectors are particularly exposed should a deal be rushed through with Australia that fails to strike the right balance.
“While some additional market access and tariff liberalisation is expected in this post-Brexit era, all deals must be properly scrutinised and ratified to avoid any risks to the future viability of the farming sector.
“Rushing through a trade deal without the promised statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission in place prior to the deal being concluded also sets a damaging precedent for other trade deals.”