By Scottish Greens farming spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP

"THERE IS a hollow sense of relief that the Brexit trade deal averted a no-deal nightmare that would have decimated Scotland’s food and drink export market overnight. However this remains perhaps the only trade deal in world history that has put up barriers, increased bureaucracy and dug up a level playing field between trading partners.

Thrown together by brinkmanship, much of the devil in the 2000 pages has yet to come under any scrutiny in any parliament. It’s clear that the Scottish seed potato sector for example was allowed to fall off the cliff edge in negotiations and long term implications across the whole industry are not yet clear.

Brexit from day one has been a monumental act of self-harm. I remember talking to research institutes at the Royal Highland Show the day after the referendum and the loss of European research partnerships was already being felt, with project plans being cancelled within hours of the result. The impact of Brexit will go far beyond the practicalities of trade, it will effect every part of the farming and food sector, dismantling collaboration that has taken decades to establish.

The threat of future UK trade deals with the rest of the world remain real, undercutting standards and flooding the UK with cheap imports would be a disaster. Scottish food and farming will be bargaining chips in a bigger trade game over rules and standards. You only have to look at the false promises made to the fishing sector to see how fluid future trade negotiations will be.

The fundamental question remains, where is Scottish agriculture going? Are we aiming to reduce the cost of production to compete on the global market or are we building to compete on quality including environmental performance? There is as yet no vision from the Scottish Government on what we are aiming for.

The government’s current strategy is about maintaining a now defunct version of the CAP for the years ahead. But everybody including the EU has moved on, Europe is now setting ambitious goals to massively reduce pesticide use and increase organic conversion. Climate change and biodiversity are no longer ‘nice to haves’, they are core objectives.

Whether you agree with these policy choices or not, there is a danger Scottish agriculture gets stuck in a past which is being rapidly dismantled. With support for independence steadily rising, Scotland may be in a position to fully consider re-joining the EU as an independent member state in the years to come, but only if it stays one step ahead of Europe. The Brexit trade deal makes these choices starker and the need for leadership and action from the Scottish Government is more pressing than ever."