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SNP release a list of 67 ways the Highland economy could be hurt by Brexit

By Scott Maclennan

MP Ian Blackford at his constituency office in Dingwall.
MP Ian Blackford at his constituency office in Dingwall.

One of the UK’s most forthright remainers has released a 67 point list itemising the ways the Highland economy could be adversely affected by leaving the European Union.

Despite the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford currently battling against a no-deal exit, he was still keen to lay out some of the issues that would affect his Highland constituents.

The document titled "how leaving the EU will potentially impact negatively on Scotland’s rural economy” offers 67 points all arguing that Brexit is a bad idea.

They range from political areas such as claiming that no rural constituency voted in favour of leaving the union to the current impasse with just over two weeks to go to the scheduled Brexit day.

It also pointed to the potential shortfalls in the workforce with 95 per cent of official veterinarians in Scotland coming from the EU while non-UK EU vets made up 45 per cent of those employed in government veterinary services.

Proposals to impose a £30,000 salary requirement for skilled workers would make if difficult for Scotland’s rural economy to recruit seasonal migrant workers.

Currently, the sector depends on up to 10,000 non-UK migrant workers in the soft fruit and vegetable sectors for harvest in summer and autumn.

Tens of millions of pounds could be lost as there is no certainty the LEADER programme will continue – it has provided £50 million from the EU with match funding of £50 million.

Nor is there any certainty that funding for agri-environment schemes which supports climate change objectives will be available post-Brexit – a potential loss of around £40 million per year.

The publication of the list comes as MPs rejected an amendment calling for an extension of Article 50 in order to stage a second referendum by a huge 249 votes.

Then, in the first good news for Number 10 for some time, MP Hilary Benn's amendment for the parliament to take the Brexit process out of the government's hands and develop a their own version of Brexit.

Later the House will vote on whether to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit, if that course is taken then there it is likely that Prime Minister Theresa May will attempt for a third time to get her deal passed parliament or else the country will leave the union without a deal.

However, there are other potential outcomes including attempts at renegotiation, another referendum, election, a vote of no confidence, or no Brexit at all.

If MPs do not vote to extend article 50 then the UK is likely to leave the EU on March 29, with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.

Speaking before the voting, Mr Blackford said: "The UK Government has descended into total chaos. Theresa May has lost control. That means it's time to put the decision on our EU membership back to the people. Parliament has now resoundingly rejected Theresa May's deal and leaving with no deal.

"Only a fresh referendum can now unblock things. The UK government must now extend or revoke Article 50, and set into motion plans to hold a second EU referendum – with Remain on the ballot paper.

"Staying in the EU is the best deal of all. It’s what Scotland and Northern Ireland voted for, and it’s the only way to protect jobs, living standards, our public services and the economy.

"Holding a second EU referendum is the best and most democratic way out of the impasse at Westminster. The UK government has failed and the people must now have their say.

"Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we should not be dragged out of the EU against our will. And the way Scotland has been ignored throughout the Brexit process means the case for independence is now stronger than it has ever been," he added.

The SNP list:


1. No rural constituency in Scotland voted in favour of leaving the EU, yet Scotland is having to leave with the rest of the UK

2. We are 17 days from leaving the EU and still do not know if we leave with no deal or if there is a deal, how that will fully impact on rural Scotland

3. All sectors of the Scottish rural economy would be negatively affected by a no-deal Brexit, but farming and food and drink sectors are particularly exposed

4. A no-deal Brexit is projected to result in EU migration falling and potentially turning negative. This would create skill shortages in industries such as agriculture andfood processing which rely on EU and seasonal workers

5. Up to 10,000 EU citizens are employed in food and drink, particularly in food processing and manufacturing

6. Over 4,500 full time equivalent jobs in fish processing are estimated to be held by EU citizens

7. Food Standards Scotland report that 95 per cent of official veterinarians are EU citizens – they are essential to the safe operation of abattoirs

8. Non-UK EU vets are employed in Government Veterinary Services (45 per cent of posts), in fisheries, aquaculture and in bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing – anyfuture shortage of vets would jeopardise the health and welfare of Scotland’s livestock

9. Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers’ research suggests 16 per cent of supervisory and management staff in food processing are EU citizens

10. Tourism contributes significantly to Scotland’s rural economy – six of Scotland’s top 10 markets for overseas visitors are in the EU, accounting for 34 per cent ofoverseas overnight visitors, and 31 per cent of overseas tourist expenditure in 2017.

11.It is estimated in the year to June 2018 that 21,000 EU citizens were employed in the tourism sector, accounting for 11.6 per cent of all employed in the sector.

12. In the same period, over 1 in 5 people employed in the accommodation sector were EU citizens (10,000 people) – EU exit would impact on the ability of employersto retain and attract workers to the industry

13. EU citizens currently working and living in the rural economy will only be able to stay if they apply for settled status

14. Currently, up to 10,000 non-UK seasonal migrant workers are employed in the soft fruit and vegetable sectors for harvest in summer and autumn.

15. Proposals from the migration advisory committee (£30,000 salary requirement for skilled workers) would mean that many sectors in Scotland’s rural economy wouldfind it hard to recruit seasonal migrant workers

16. Under the CAP, the EU provides £500m for Scotland’s rural economy - there are no firm UK Government guarantees for this funding after 2020

17. We do not know whether funding will be available to pay farmers and crofters after scheme year 2021 – the UK Government’s guarantee on agriculture support isonly until the end of this UK Parliament.

18. There is no certainty that funding for tree-planting and woodland and forest management and growth will continue – worth £46 million per year

19. There is no certainty that funding for LEADER (£50 million in grant funding since 2014, with an additional £50 million attracted in match funding as aconsequence) will continue – it supports jobs, infrastructure, services and facilities in rural communities

20. There is no certainty that funding for agri-environment schemes which supports climate change objectives, including low carbon farming, will continue – a potentialloss of around £40 million per year

21. Under CAP, we provide a Farm Advisory Service to provide carbon audits and advice, information and support for productive farming – its future funding is notguaranteed

22. CAP has allowed us to set up and fund the Beef Efficiency Scheme, supporting 1434 farmers to improve the efficiency, sustainability and quality of their beef herd,helping to increase their genetic value and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – there is noclarity on how this will be funded in future

23. We fund a range of initiatives which support innovation and collaboration by farmers and food producers to work more efficiently and effectively and try new ideasand methods – funding is not guaranteed in the future

24. European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) provides up to £150 million (including match funding) for investment in port and harbour facilities, fishing vessels,aquaculture, the seafood processing sector, stock data and compliance activity – we donot know what will replace it

25. In the last 5 years, Scotland’s research institutes have benefited from over £25m in EU funding – it is not clear how they might access such funding in the future

26. The food and drink sector estimates that a no-deal could lead to a loss of £2 billion worth of food and drink sales, with implications for rural communities wheremany producers are based.

27. We will lose the European Food Safety Authority’s expertise in risk assessing GMO marketing applications

28. Unless the UK remains in the EEA of EFTA after leaving the EU we will lose access to ENGL (European Network GMO Laboratories).

29. The loss of free trade will create barriers for key Scottish food exports, such as salmon, langoustines and scallops

30. Exports of fresh seafood will require additional export health certificates at an estimated cost of at least £15 million per year

31. It requires qualified specialist staff in local authorities to undertake this certification – it is not clear where those staff are going to come from or who will pay forthem

32. Every haulage firm taking food and drink produce to the continent for sale requires certificates that allow them to take products into the EU – Scottish based hauliersapplied for 680 permits but only received 48

33. Delays and disruption at ports and on transport routes could result in a significantreduction in the flow of goods – seafood products such as shellfish are particularlytime sensitive

34. The seafood sector also faces challenges ensuring key imports such as food, ova, smolts and fuel, which support their businesses, are maintained.

35. A loss of trade within the farmed fish and seafish sectors could result in business financial unsustainability, leading to unemployment and economic impact toparticularly vulnerable isolated coastal communities.

36. Every Scottish food and drink business which exports to the EU will need to have an EU address to continue doing so

37. Food products will require new health labelling – the UK Government has not said who will pay for this

38. Scotland’s premium beef and lamb exports will face punitive tariffs of as much as 50 per cent

39. It is not clear that the UK Government approach to import tariffs for beef, poultry, pigmeat, butter and cheese will be “broadly neutral” for UK producers andconsumers, as they claim

40. If seafood exporters cannot deliver their product to EU markets on time, there is an increased risk of spoilage and dumping, creating environmental and public healthhazards

41. We are likely to lose access to the expertise in the EU’s network of National Reference Laboratories, each of which is responsible for a named disease

42. This means we will no longer be part of an integrated response to animal disease and will not be party to designing appropriate responses to outbreaks.

43. We will have no access to EU vaccine banks, or to EU funding to help meet the cost of outbreaks of, for example, foot and mouth disease.

44. The UK Government refuses to apply the same health and welfare standards in law to imported food and drink and animal products as apply to home grown andproduced goods

45. Due to strict plant health rules the EU bans the importation of seed potatoes from Third Countries, with the exception of Switzerland. Therefore leaving without adeal would close the EU market to the 20-30,000 tonnes of seed potatoes exportedannually, which currently generates around £6 million.

46. There is also no certainty that alternative markets for this seed, at home and abroad could be found, resulting potentially in price depression across the whole Scottishseed industry.

47. We will no longer be part of the EU’s community Plant variety Office (CPVO) and if we leave without a deal, applications for registrations of plant varieties andintellectual property protection will have to be made in both the UK and the EU, resultingin a doubling of registration costs for plant breeders

48. We will not have access to the Advisory Group – Food Chain and Animal and Plant Health, which covers Scotland’s tree health interests

49. We will lose access to intelligence on new and emerging plant pests through our loss of membership of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA), ourmembership of which has proved crucial in formulating our contingency planning for seriousplant pathogens such as Xylella.

50. We will also lose access to shared knowledge and expertise in EUROPHYT, a web-based network and database which connects plant health authorities across theEU and serves as an alert system for plant disease outbreaks.

51. This will further restrict our ability to prepare for and deal rapidly with exotic pests and diseases which may be introduced into Scotland through trade.

52. A no deal means plants and plant products will not be inspected at the point of entry when imported from the EU, resulting in additional inspections at the destinationto ensure marketing standards for fruit and veg are maintained.

53. Not only will this create barriers to trade in terms of time and resource, it will increase the need and cost of additional specialist staffing

54. Iconic Scottish products like Stornoway black pudding and Arbroath smokies may no longer benefit from having their names protected in EU law.

55. There are still no published plans to replace the EU Geographic Indication scheme with one that protects Scottish products

56. The UK Government’s Agriculture Bill rides roughshod over the devolved settlement by asserting that some areas of policy are reserved when they are clearly, in ourview, devolved.

57. The UK Government is attempting to grab key powers which could affect the Scottish Parliament’s ability to provide support for active beef and sheep farmers, andimpact on Less Favoured Area Support for farmers working in the toughest areas.

58. There are also significant concerns with some aspects of the UK Government’s Fisheries bill including that the fishing opportunities power encroaches on devolvedcompetence

59. The UK Government has rejected our suggestions to deal with this issue, meaning that the UK Government’s Fisheries Secretary of State can set quotas for Scottishspecies entirely in Scottish waters without the consent of the Scottish Government

60. Insufficient resources for marine compliance could result in illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing potentially damaging fishing stocks

61. Scottish vessels may be tempted to transfer landings to EU ports to avoid disruption to prices and trade – that would have consequences for the wider supply chainsuch as fish processing

62. A failure to make international agreements on fisheries access and quotawith EU and third nations (Faroes, Norway) could mean that Scottish fishers cannot fish innon-UK waters.

63. At the same time, foreign vessels would be unable to catch in UK waters or land in UK ports – this would harm small, remote coastal towns like Lochinver, Lerwickand Ullapool

64. There are concerns that the introduction of tariffs will threaten the viability of the organic market.

65. Recognition of UK organic certification by the EU is likely to cease if we leave the EU, for at least 9 months, preventing organic farmers and producers fromexporting their produce to the EU

66. We will lose access to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) which performs key functions in relation to plant protection products (“pesticides”), particularlyevaluation and recommendations for the purposes of approval of active substances and forproposing maximum residue levels (MRLs).

67. We will lose access to the Commission’s Fertilisers Working Group which provides expertise in relation to the manufacture, supply and marketing of fertilisers.

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