SCOTS TORY MPs were on the rack this week, after voting against a crucial amendment that would have protected UK farming from sub-standard food imports flooding in under post-Brexit international trade deals.
Last week Westminster MPs were debating and voting on the new UK Agriculture Bill, which will be the foundation of UK food and farming policy once the Brexit process is complete. The 'New Clause 2' amendment, tabled by Southern Conservative MP Neil Parish and supported by immediate past Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, would have enshrined in law the principle that imported food must match the quality and animal welfare standards of UK farmers' production. 
Ahead of the debate, all 650 MPs were contacted by a coalition of all the UK farming unions, landowner and tenant bodies, plus all the major animal welfare and environmental organisations, and asked to vote for the amendment – but the Conservative Government refused to endorse the measure, and it was defeated by 328 to 277 votes.
Among those who voted down the imports standard safeguard were Scots Tories John Lamont, of Berwick Roxburgh and Selkirk, Andrew Bowie of Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Douglas Ross of Moray, David Duguid of Banff and Buchan, Alister Jack of Dumfries and Galloway – who is also currently Scottish Secretary of State – and his predecessor David Mundell, of Clydeside and Tweedale, all MPs representing rural constituencies that rely heavily on farming.
Immediate past chairman of the National Sheep Association in Scotland, John Fyall asked: "Is there an obvious reason I am missing why the farming constituents were thrown under the bus? Years of work on animal and environmental care thrown away!"
Perthshire farmer Jim Fairlie said: "Food and agri produce are very high on the agenda for Washington. They want access to our markets. They want no PGI or food labelling restrictions and they don’t want tariffs. 
"The Tory refusal to accept Neil Parish’s New Clause 2 amendment has just made these US aims a lot easier – it’s very easy to see the direction of travel that this Tory government is taking."
NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall commented: “While the passing of this landmark Bill unamended was no surprise, it was still deeply disappointing. The UK Agriculture Bill is a once-in-a-generation piece of legislation and it must safeguard the sustainability of domestic food production and the integrity of domestic food consumption."
Scottish Land and Estates policy adviser Eleanor Kay, said: “This issue has united farming, consumer, environmental and animal welfare organisations and codifying the commitment in law would have strengthened the government’s hand in trade talks as a food standard which could not be deviated from.
“If this is not addressed, we face a very real prospect of British farming being undermined by imported food that can be produced to a standard which would be unacceptable and illegal in the UK."
The Farmers’ Union of Wales said it was a 'grave error' that the Parish amendment had been blocked, while the National Sheep Association looked to the House of Lords to put right what the House of Commons had failed to do.
SNP agriculture spokesperson Dave Doogan MP said that SNP MPs in Westminster had all voted to include the Parish clause: "It is shameful that the Scottish Tories couldn’t bring themselves to do the same, risking a race to the bottom for food standards.
"Farmers and food producers in Scotland will doubtless now be asking who it is that stands up for them at Westminster – its clearly not the Tories who have now turned their back on Scottish agriculture.”
But the Scottish Conservatives defended their decision to vote down the amendment: "Supporting the amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill would have made it impossible to sign a trade deal with the US or anywhere else. That cannot be in the interests of Scotland's farmers."
Banff and Buchan's Mr Duguid insisted that any suggestion that he or his Scottish Conservative colleagues had 'voted for a reduction in food standards' was completely false, and stressed that the UK's high environmental and food safety standards would be maintained – including retaining the ban on chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef, which had been carried over from EU law into UK law.
"Under WTO rules, we can, and we will, reject any imported food that doesn’t comply with our own sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards and measures to protect human, animal or plant life/health," said Mr Duguid.
"However, under those same WTO rules, although we can apply standards to the quality and health of the product, we cannot dictate or regulate on another country’s production methods – as long as the product itself meets our SPS standards."