SUB-STANDARD imported beef, lamb and pork, which would be illegal to produce in the UK, cannot be allowed a place on its supermarket shelves.

That was the message that Quality Meat Scotland chief executive Alan Clarke delivered to Westminster's Public Bill committee as it gathered opinions and concerns relating to the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill.

Ahead of undertaking a detailed line by line examination of the Bill (which is due to start next week), the members of the Public Bill Committee asked Mr Clarke to discuss a range of topics, including safeguarding Scottish farming standards in future trade deals.

Mr Clarke stressed to the Committee that allowing imports which are produced to lower welfare and sustainability standards would have a 'disastrous effect' on the Scottish red meat industry.

“The Scots were pioneers of whole-of-life, whole-of-supply chain quality assurance and that gives a unique selling point to our products of Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork,” he said.

“Our brands are underpinned by world-class production methods, animal welfare, traceability and sustainability standards, so it is essential that sub-standard imported beef, lamb and pork, which would be illegal to produce here, are not allowed to have a place on our supermarket shelves.”

Mr Clarke also spoke up about the thorny issue of the red meat levies collected at English abattoirs for Scottish bred-and-raised stock, and called for the Committee to set a date for a 'long-term solution' to the lost levy problem – noting that the UK's three levy boards, QMS, AHDB and HCC, were currently working towards the date of April 1, 2021.

“The Scottish red meat industry continues to miss out on around £1.2million of Scottish producer levy per year which is trapped in England,” he said. “Although the interim solution, whereby £2m of red meat levies has been ring-fenced for collaborative projects across Scotland, England and Wales, has been working well, this does not reflect the amount of money the Scottish industry is losing south of the border.

“Levy repatriation would make a substantial difference to the activity QMS undertakes to promote and protect the Scottish red meat industry and further market the Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork brands.”

Other witnesses who gave oral evidence to the Committee along with Mr Clarke included NFU Scotland's director of policy Jonnie Hall; and George Burgess, deputy director of food and drink trade policy at the Scottish Government.