WITH THE prospect of a no-deal Brexit looming, the Scottish Government has repeated calls for a compensation scheme for farmers.

Rural Economy secretary Fergus Ewing has stressed that sheep farmers must receive compensation for any losses incurred, if a deal is not struck - an urgency which has only been heightened by the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the event of a no-deal outcome, there are fears that reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules could result in high tariffs placed on certain food exports, which could leave farmers facing lower returns.

“Our farmers and crofters are already under immense pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with their biggest market will only be increasing this strain," said Mr Ewing.

“There is no market that could come close to the EU for our food and drink exports, particularly our sheep farming sector, and we have a wealth of independent research showing that a no-deal outcome, which would mean reverting to WTO terms, will have a detrimental impact on these producers.

The UK sheep industry alone have been faced with the possibility of tariffs of up to 50% on exports which are currently worth £400 million a year and 95% of which are destined for the European market.

Mr Ewing continued: “I wrote last week to the Secretary of State seeking assurance that the UK Government will keep its promise to compensate those sectors that will be impacted. I am now calling for funding from Westminster for compensation schemes to mitigate for their losses in a no-deal scenario, reducing the risk of these businesses going under.”

NFU Scotland has made it clear in the past that a no-deal outcome could be 'catastrophic' for Scottish agriculture and pointed out that the sheep sector wouldn't be the only sector in need of support: "We know that the impact of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit on the sheep sector would be substantial given the sector’s reliance on exports," said NFUS president Andrew McCornick. "Scotland is home to one fifth of the entire sheep flock of the UK so our rural economy will be substantially affected by such a scenario. Previously, the UK Government recognised that the sheep sector would be one of the hardest hit sectors by a no deal Brexit and indicated that it would put in place emergency support measures.

“Of course, it is not just the sheep sector that would be severely impacted by a no deal Brexit," he continued. "All sectors affected must be assisted in instances of market failure. Should no deal be the outcome of the talks we would expect the UK Government to deliver the necessary support to protect farms in order to secure the jobs and opportunities which the sector provides in our rural communities and to support the food and drink industry which is the largest manufacturing sector of the economy. We remain clear that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit must be avoided,” Mr McCornick concluded.