INCREASED trade with Australia will bring minimal advantage to the wider UK economy at the expense of a considerable downside for Scottish agriculture.

Speaking in the House of Commons, SNP MP for Stirling Alyn Smith slammed the UK government over the now agreed Free Trade Deal with Australia, and highlighted concern that if this deal is the template for subsequent deals 'there is trouble ahead in Brexit Britain for Scottish agriculture'.

Mr Smith – a veteran of Scottish agricultural lobbying in the European Parliament– noted that the new deal would, on a best case scenario using the UK government’s own projections, add just 0.08% to the economy by 2035: "This is not nothing, but is a drop in the ocean compared to the whopping 4% loss we have suffered due to Brexit," he said.

But the focus of his criticism was not upon that bottom line – but rather on the economic sleight of hand within the deal that left Scotland’s agriculture sector at risk of being flooded by cheaper Australian imports, in return for getting the UK's service industry giants a foothold in Australia.

"The new deal does not retain existing lamb and beef quota and tariffs nor does it reflect UK seasonality of product," said Mr Smith. "The UK Government has also failed to maintain the current split between fresh and frozen product as well as ensure that any quota changes are cut-specific and favour the premium cuts. These measures would have helped give Scottish produce an advantage as well as guard it against unfair competition.

"The Government’s own impact analysis of the deal recognises this, stating: 'The economic benefits of FTAs do not arise without reallocation of resources within the economy... part of the gains results from a reallocation of resources away from agriculture, forestry, and fishing... and semi-processed-foods'," he noted.

In his speech to Parliament, Mr Smith quoted NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy, saying: “The final deal…shows a complete dearth of proper consultation with farming and food sector interests across the UK. While we are not against free trade, this deal appears to be very one sided, with little to no advantage for Scottish farmers."

In his own words, he continued: "If Covid and Brexit have taught us anything it is that indigenous food production across these islands—indeed, across this continent—and short supply chains are vital to our national security and national resilience, however we define ‘national’. Anything that undermines that will be viewed with extreme scepticism by SNP Members.

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“I’m struck as ever by the ability of Tory members to become giddy with excitement at hypothetical potential gains from Brexit, yet ignore or belittle the real world consequences they have inflicted on us all," he added. "If the Australian industry, for whatever reason, decides to pivot away from Asian markets and come our way, then under this deal there will be little to protect our producers."

Mr Smith concluded: “Stirling is some of the best farmland in Scotland, and I know Scotland’s farmers are deeply nervous, with good reason, at where this UK government is taking them.

"The SNP’s proposition is clear – back into the EU Single Market with the Single Farm Payment and guaranteed frictionless trade with a whole continent. The the more I see of Brexit Britain the more I’m convinced Scottish farming’s best future is the best of both worlds with independence in Europe.”