THE SCOTCH label has earned a hard won reputation and has official accreditation, so it is all the more galling that supermarket giants, such as Tesco, can treat it with disdain (as reported in our front page story this week).

Had it been Scotch whisky branded labels that had been replaced by some generic tag, like Glendroolagain, what would the outcome have been? Court action, reparation sought – and a bloody nose and empty pockets for any supermarket involved in it, would be the only right and proper outcome.

Given the sound bites and commitment given at the time of COP26, when supermarkets were falling over themselves to pledge reduced food miles and waste to save the planet, it’s now rank out of order that they turn to imports from New Zealand and Ireland to fill their shelves and freely mix with our home product.

Ironically, it appears that while Asda – once a big bad offender in stocking imported product – stepped up to the mark on its commitment to buy and stock British product and had reduced its Irish beef offering, the gap that this left in the market looks suspiciously like it has been gobbled up by Tesco – especially given that Irish beef prices have been slipping in the last two months and they could cut costs.

All year, consumers have grown accustomed to certain products as part of their daily shopping habits and have truly bought in to the ‘buy local’ mantra. Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb (as well as Specially Selected Pork) are well-known and respected brands, so why throw the baby out with the bathwater and embrace produce from other countries when there’s plenty at home?

This is especially so at Christmas, when the Great British consumer expects to have ­– and is willing to pay for – home-grown, locally-sourced meat with the Scotch label on it and all the assurance that this brings. Replacing it with a British flag, despite the obvious accreditation that comes with the Scotch label, could be commercial suicide.

After a year when farming has been hit by challenge after challenge – the Brexit fallout, unfavourable trade deals, rocketing fertiliser costs, labour shortages and a UK government that doesn’t seem to care about this industry – retailer loyalty has never been so important to maintain supply from domestic producers.

In the biggest Tesco store in Scotland, in Silverburn Shopping Centre, in Glasgow, there is a huge picture hung over the aisle with a picture of a beef farmer and his cattle, plus a saltire on it – but there was no Scotch-labelled produce to be found. There was plenty of British and Irish mixed together, plus New Zealand and British lamb – and all at a time when they should only be stocking in-season Scotch Lamb.

As well as missing an opportunity to showcase the sector at Christmas, even worse it is misleading consumers. The posters showcase the benefits of the Scotch brand and share farmers’ stories – but their messages are being badly let down by the retailer.

We can only hope that Tesco’s promise to support the Scotch brands after the festive sales fever is over will be honoured. If not, the industry must fight back against any such broken pledges.